U.S. President Donald Trump and former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden held their first televised debate in Cleveland, Ohio, on Tuesday, September 29, with 35 days to go before a very tense presidential election.
There was no handshake when the two septuagenarians took the stage, and while this was due to the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions, the absence of the traditional salute symbolized the deep division in the country in the countdown to November 3.
Trump went on the offensive, determined to regain ground against his rival, who has been ahead of him in the polls for weeks and defended his decision to fill the vacancy left in the Supreme Court by the death of Judge Ruth Baden Ginsburg with a conservative judge.
"We won the election, the election has consequences," Trump said, referring to the Democrats' outrage over the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett that could leave the Supreme Court in the hands of conservatives for decades.
He later accused Biden of being "socialist," but Biden dismissed his attacks, saying that "everyone knows" that Trump "is a liar.
"The fact is that everything he's saying so far is simply a lie. I'm not here to shout out his lies. Everybody knows he's a liar," Biden said of the Republican leader.
"There's nothing smart about you," said President Trump in another 90-minute segment of the debate, six 15-minute segments.
U.S. President Donald Trump accused the Democratic nominee of the White House of being the puppet of the "radical left".
"The radical left is manipulating you like a puppet," the Republican leader told him, assuring him that Biden would be a weak president in the face of crime and violence. "You don't want to say anything about law and order," the Republican added.
Meanwhile, the Democratic candidate accused Trump of not facing Russia, calling the Republican leader a "puppy" of his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
"He is Putin's puppy. He refuses to say anything about bonuses for killing American soldiers," said Barack Obama's former vice president.
The topics discussed in this first meeting of three scheduled before the elections were public health, measures to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, racism, tax evasion, climate change, unemployment, and the US economy; they also discussed whether or not they will accept the results of the elections to be held on November 3.
Donald Trump said that the winner of the election may not be known "for months".
"We may not know for months," Trump said of the election results. "This is not going to end well," added the Republican leader, who has been claiming for weeks, without evidence, that absentee voting could skew the outcome.
The debate was held in Ohio, one of the swing states that change their preference from one election to another and which Trump managed to win in 2016. Now, Biden leads the polls in this stronghold with 49% of preferences, compared to 45.7% for Trump.
The pandemic - which has left more than 204,762 dead in the country - marked the development of the debate, and in the auditorium all those present - except Trump and Biden and moderator Chris Wallace - wore masks and the chairs were placed to respect social distancing.
Peter Eyre, a senior advisor to the Commission for Presidential Debates, indicated that the audience was composed of 80 people, including family members of the candidates, campaign managers, security officials, and journalists.