Trump, Biden clash in tense but calmer final debate

US President Donald Trump and his Democratic rival Joe Biden clashed over COVID-19, race and corruption in their final live TV debate.

Mr Trump cited unsubstantiated claims Mr Biden personally profited off his son’s business dealings. The Democrat brought up Mr Trump’s opaque taxes.

On the pandemic, Mr Biden would not rule out more lockdowns, while Mr Trump insisted it was time to reopen the US.

More than 47 million people have already cast their ballots in a record-breaking voting surge driven by the pandemic that has claimed about 220,000 American lives.

Thursday night’s primetime duel in Nashville, Tennessee, was a less acrimonious and more substantive affair than the pair’s previous showdown on 29 September, which devolved into insults and name-calling.

But the 90-minute debate, moderated by NBC’s Kristen Welker, saw plenty of personal attacks between the opponents, despite the threat of muting microphones.

Nowhere was the distinction between the two candidates more apparent than in their approach to the pandemic, where Mr Biden, a Democrat, did not rule it out.

But Mr Trump, a Republican, said it was wrong to inflict further damage on the economy because of an infection from which most people recover.

“This is a massive country with a massive economy,” said the president. “People are losing their jobs, they’re committing suicide. There’s depression, alcohol, drugs at a level nobody’s ever seen before.”

Mr Trump, 74, declared that the virus is “going away” and that a vaccine would be ready by the end of the year, while Mr Biden warned the nation was heading towards “a dark winter”.

The president said: “We’re learning to live with it.” Mr Biden, 77, countered: “Come on. We’re dying with it.”

Mr Biden laid blame for the 220,000-plus American deaths from the pandemic at Mr Trump’s door.

“Anyone who’s responsible for that many deaths should not remain president of the United States of America,” he said.

During a back and forth on race relations, Mr Trump said: “I am the least racist person in this room.”

He brought up the 1994 crime bill that Mr Biden helped draft and which Black Lives Matter blames for the mass incarceration of African Americans.

But Mr Biden said Mr Trump was “one of the most racist presidents we’ve had in modern history. He pours fuel on every single racist fire.”

He added: “This guy is a [racial] dog whistle about as big as a fog horn.”

Biden has a healthy national lead 11 days ahead of the polls, but it’s being narrowed in some battleground states.

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