PRESIDENT Donald Trump dubbed Democratic nominee Joe Biden incompetent and attacked his son Hunter in a bitter debate that saw his opponent call him "racist" and "a clown."
In a fierce shouting match where both candidates pushed for airtime to defend their records and visions, Trump often spoke over Biden and even clashed with exasperated moderator Chris Wallace.
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After the debate, Biden tweeted: "You heard a lot come out of President Trump's mouth. Can you name one thing he said to actually make your life better?"
Coming into the contest, President Trump found himself trailing in practically every poll and facing a country reeling from the coronavirus pandemic and nationwide unrest over police brutality.
Still, the president opted to come out strong, heckling and interrupting his opponent and appearing aggressive and assured.
“It’s hard to get a word in with this clown,” Mr. Biden said early on, while Trump even clashed with host Chris Wallace, who he continuously spoke over.
"I guess I'm debating you, not him," Trump said to Wallace.
At one point Biden appeared visibly riled, telling Trump to "shut up, man," before becoming more composed to his opponent's interruptions as the contest moved on.
Trump's handling of the coronavirus was high on the agenda, with Biden targeting the president for his approach to a pandemic that has seen 200,000 Americans die this year.
"I don't trust him at all," Biden said, pointing to Trump's previous claims that injecting bleach could beat the disease. "What we trust is scientists."
The former vice president also targeted Trump's decision to hold rallies on the campaign trail, only for the president hit back, stating that Biden could never draw crowds to match his, adding, "People want to hear what I have to say."
The president continued to blame the virus on being a "China plague," claiming that Democrats did not want to reopen cities for purely political reasons.
Naturally, the debate moved from shutdowns for health reasons to their impact on economy, with Trump accusing Biden of wanting to "close down the whole country," leaving states "like being in prison" with coronavirus restrictions.
Biden, however, stood firm, stating: "You can't fix the economy until you fix the COVID crisis."
He went on to point out that more Americans will be unemployed come Election Day than when Trump took office – a first for the US, Biden claimed, though this statistic was not verified.
As he looked to respond, Trump – who has insisted that states should be able to reopen, go back to school, and even host football games – was faced with questions about the need to wear face masks, which most experts say would help keep Americans safe.
At one point, Trump took out his own mask as a show of support.
As many expected, on numerous occasions Trump took to attacking Biden's son, Hunter, over his dealings in Ukraine – a subject of ire amongst many Republicans.
The president also reiterated his claims that he is the "law and order" candidate, attacking Biden on his record with black voters, who showed an 81 percent to 7 percent support for Biden in a recent poll.
Trump pointed to his opponent's support for the 1994 Crime Bill, which has been criticized for over-policing and contributing to the mass incarceration of black men across America.
Biden, who dubbed Trump a "racist," said he is in favor of “law and order with justice, where people get treated fairly.”
At one point, Wallace pushed Trump to categorically denounce white supremacist groups who have confronted protestors across the country, which the president refuse to do.
Instead, Trump told the right-wing group The Proud Boys to "stand by," and said that extreme violence in the country is "not a right-wing problem."
The group were reported to have celebrated after the president's call-out, appearing to take the statement as a marching order.
'LAW AND ORDER'
Only a short amount of time was dedicated to the bombshell New York Times report that claimed that Trump had paid as little as $750 in taxes the year he became president.
Trump reiterating that he pays "millions" to the federal government, but, as was the case during his campaign against Hilary Clinton, few assurances were offered that he would back this claim up.
For Biden, in addressing sticking points that he would like to avoid, it was a case of looking to distance himself from claims that he is part of the "radical far-left" and a product of a party that is looking to move in a more progressive direction.
To combat this, Biden said that he does not support movements such as defunding the police, and, in fact, more money should be given to law enforcement at a state level, he said.
Biden also said he was not a supporter of the Green New Deal and instead encouraged voters to check out his own plan on climate change and surrounding economic impacts.
He and Trump arrived in Cleveland, Ohio, hoping to energize their campaigns and snap up a small slice of voters that still remain undecided.
With just 35 days left until the election, Trump continued to press home his claims that mail-in voting is open to widespread voter fraud – the final discussion topic of the night.
Biden pointed out that the president himself has used mail-in voting to cast ballots in the past, and that the military has relied on such methods with no evidence of issues, he said.
Reports in the buildup to Tuesday's contest surrounded Trump's claims that had Biden refused to have his ears checked for earpieces that could aid his performance during the debate.
The next presidential debate will take place on October 15, with the vice presidential debate between Democrat Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence set to meet on October 7.
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