So, that marks the end of Donald Trump and Joe Biden’s simultaneous town hall forums. It’s been real.
One event was much shoutier than the other, but both candidates suffered some awkward moments – most strikingly, Mr Trump when he avoided criticising QAnon, and Mr Biden when a voter grilled him about his infamous “you ain’t black” gaffe.
I’ll do a proper wrap-up of both events shortly in our daily US election newsletter, which you can and most definitely should sign up for here.
“If you lose, what will that say to you about where America is today?” Stephanopoulos asked in his final question to Joe Biden.
“Well, it could say that I’m a lousy candidate and I didn’t do a good job,” Mr Biden quipped.
“But I think – I hope that it doesn’t say that we are as racially, ethnically and religiously at odds with one another as it appears the President wants us to be.
“In my view, with all due respect, it’s been divide and conquer. He does better if he splits us, there’s division. And I think people need hope.
“I think the people are ready, they understand what’s at stake. And it’s not about Democrat or Republican.
“If I get elected, I’m running as a proud Democrat, but I’m going to be an American president. I’m going to take care of those who voted against me as well as those who voted for me. That’s what presidents do. We’ve got to heal this nation.”
Following on from a couple of pretty shaky answers there, Mr Biden had a better moment as he explained what he would do to protect LGBTQ rights.
“I’m the proud mum of two young girls, eight and ten. My youngest daughter is transgender,” said voter Mieke Haeck.
“The Trump administration has attacked the rights of transgender people, banning them from military service, weakening non-discrimination protections, and even removing the word transgender from some government websites.
“How will you, as president, reverse this dangerous and discriminatory agenda, and ensure that the lives and rights of LGBTQ people are protected under US law?”
“I will flat-out just change the law. Eliminate those executive orders,” Mr Biden replied.
He told a story from his younger years, many decades in the past now.
“My dad was a high school educated, well-read man who was a really decent guy. And I was being dropped off to get an application in our city, Wilmington.
“And these two men – I’m getting out to get an application to be a lifeguard in the African-American community, because there was a big swimming pool complex – and these two men, well-dressed, leaned up and hugged each other, kissed one another.
“And I’m getting out of the car at the light, and I turn to my dad. And my dad looked at me, he said, ‘Joey it’s simple. They love each other.'”
With that story out of the way, he circled back to address Ms Haeck directly.
“The idea that an eight-year-old child or a ten-year-old child decides, ‘You know, I decided I want to be transgender. That’s what I think I’d like to be. It would make my life a lot easier,'” Mr Biden continued.
“There should be zero discrimination.
“So I promise you, there is no reason to suggest that there should be any right denied your daughter.”
A progressive African-American student, Cedric Humphrey, asked Joe Biden about one of his more infamous remarks of the campaign.
“I tell you what, if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black,” Mr Biden said back in May.
The comment sparked a swift backlash, and he apologised.
“Many people believe that the true swing demographic in this election will be black voters under the age of 30. Not because they’ll be voting for Trump, but because they won’t vote at all. I myself have had this exact same conflict,” Mr Humphrey said.
“So my question for you then is, besides ‘you ain’t black’, what do you have to say to young black voters who see voting for you as further participation in a system that continually fails to protect them?”
Mr Biden started his answer by playing up his friendship with civil rights icon John Lewis, who died earlier this year.
“Well I say first of all, as my buddy John Lewis said, it’s a sacred opportunity, the right to vote. It can make a difference,” he said.
“If young black men and women vote, you can determine the outcome of this election. Not a joke. You can do that.
“And the next question is, am I worthy of your vote? Can I earn your vote? And the answer is, there’s two things that I think I’ve demonstrated I care about for my whole career.
“One is, in addition to dealing with our criminal justice system to make it fairer, we have to be able to let African-Americans gain wealth, generate wealth.”
He went on to reel off some policies he supports, such as more funding for disadvantaged schools.
Mr Humphrey did not look convinced.
Young African-American voter to Joe Biden:
“Besides ‘you ain’t black,’ what do you have to say to young black voters who see voting for you as further participation in a system that fails to protect them?” pic.twitter.com/acT4UWxUwe
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) October 16, 2020
Ever since the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and President Trump’s nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to replace her, Joe Biden has refused to say whether he will consider “packing” the court if he wins and becomes president.
What do I mean by that? In short, we’re talking about adding extra seats to the court through an act of Congress, allowing a hypothetical president Biden to appoint a couple of liberal justices and change the balance of the judiciary.
Last week we wrote about the Democratic nominee's latest – and frankly rather farcical – attempt to dodge the issue. Mr Biden told reporters the American people would learn his position on court packing … after they had already voted for him.
Tonight, moderator George Stephanopoulos asked him to explain himself.
“What I wanted to do George is, you know if I had answered the question directly, then all the focus would be on, ‘What’s Biden going to do if he wins?’ Instead of on, ‘Is it appropriate what is going on now?’ Mr Biden said.
“This is the thing that the President loves to do – always take our eye off the ball, what’s at stake.”
Perhaps one way to remove the focus from the court packing issue would be to say unambiguously that no, he won’t do it. Just a thought.
But Mr Biden and his vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris have not done that. They continue to play coy.
Also, isn’t “What’s Biden going to do if he wins?” kind of the point of an election campaign? Isn’t it his job to tell voters precisely what he will do?
Sorry, I’m straying into ranty territory here. Back to Mr Biden’s answer.
“I have not been a fan of court packing, because then it just generates what would happen – whoever wins would just keep moving in a way that is inconsistent with what is going to be manageable,” he continued.
“So you’re still not a fan?” Stephanopoulos asked.
“Well, I’m not a fan. It depends how this turns out,” Mr Biden replied, referring to the confirmation process for Judge Barrett.
“Not how he wins, but how it’s handled. How it’s handled.”
“What does that mean, how it’s handled?” Stephanopoulos interjected.
“Well, if there’s actual, live debate on the floor, if people are really going to have time to go through this,” Mr Biden said.
“It depends on how much they rush this.”
Stephanopoulos kept pressing, asking whether a vote to confirm Judge Barrett before the election would lead Mr Biden to consider court packing in response.
“I’m open to considering what happens from that point on,” the candidate replied.
“George, no matter what answer I gave you, if I say it, that’s the headline tomorrow.”
“But don’t voters have a right to know where you stand?” the moderator asked.
“They do have a right to know where I stand, and they’ll have a right to know where I stand before they vote,” said Mr Biden.
So, he did at least commit to having a clear position before election day. Still not great, but it’s an improvement on what he said last week.
Pressed repeatedly by @GStephanopoulos on his position on court packing, Joe Biden says, “I’m not a fan … it depends on how this turns out,” adding that it depends on how Republicans handle the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. https://t.co/JEyTOkB6qk pic.twitter.com/rpcrzh5aRO
— ABC News (@ABC) October 16, 2020
Joe Biden was grilled on his support for a wide-ranging crime bill that passed in 1994, when he was a senator, and led to a large increase in people being jailed for minor drug crimes.
“What’s your view on the crime bill that you wrote in 1994, that showed prejudice against minorities? Where do you stand today on that?” asked voter Angelica Politahros.
“Well first of all, things have changed drastically,” Mr Biden said.
“The Black Caucus voted for it, every black mayor supported it, across the board.
“The crime bill itself did not have mandatory sentences except for two things. It had three strikes and you’re out, which I voted against in the bill, but it had a lot of other things in it that turned out to be both bad and good.
“What I was against was giving states more money for prison systems that they could build. State prison systems.”
“Was it a mistake to support it?” Stephanopoulos asked.
“Yes it was,” Mr Biden acknowledged. He then proceeded to shift the blame to the states.
“But here’s where the mistake came. The mistake came in terms of what the states did locally. What we did federally was – you remember, George, it was all about the same time for the same crime.”
He said his position was that minor drug crimes should lead to mandatory rehabilitation, not jail time.
Joe Biden’s town hall with ABC News started with a question on the coronavirus.
Business owner Kelly Leigh, who voted for Donald Trump four years ago but is currently undecided, asked whether the Democratic nominee would make a coronavirus vaccine mandatory.
“We should be thinking about making it mandatory,” Mr Biden said, before promptly admitting he would not actually have the power to do any such thing at a national level.
“How could you enforce that?” asked moderator George Stephanopoulos.
“You couldn’t. That’s the problem. Just like you can’t enforce measles,” said Mr Biden.
“You can’t come to school unless you have a measles shot. But you can’t say everyone has to do this.
“It’s like you can’t mandate a mask. But you can say, you can go to every governor and get them all in a room, all 50 of them, as president, and say, ‘Ask people to wear the mask.'”
“And if they don’t? Fine?” asked Stephanopoulos.
“No, not fine. Then I go to every mayor. I go to every councilman, I go to every local official, and say, ‘Mandate the mask. This is what you have to do when you’re out. Make sure you encourage it being done.’
“Look. The words of a president matter. No matter whether they’re good, bad or indifferent, they matter.
“And when a president doesn’t wear a mask, or makes fun of folks like me when I was wearing a mask for a long time, then people say, ‘Well it mustn’t be that important.’
“I think it matters what we say.”
Guthrie ended the town hall by asking Mr Trump to tell undecided voters “why they should give you a second chance and why you might improve in a second term”.
“Because I’ve done a great job,” the President said.
“We have the strongest economy in the world. We closed it up, we are coming around the corner, the vaccines are coming out soon and our economy is strong.
“We are at a level with jobs like we’ve never been before. We’ve rebuilt our military. We’ve rebuilt our borders, we had no borders, we had no nothing. We’ve rebuilt so much.
“We’ve given you the greatest tax cut in the history of our country. Greatest regulation cut, equally as important, and we’ve created new levels of jobs that nobody thought was possible.
“And next year is going to be better than ever before.”
OK, I’m going to grab a coffee – it’s almost 10pm here in the US which is WAY past my preferred bedtime – and then we’ll run through the other town hall with Joe Biden.
Moderator Savannah Guthrie jumped back in to ask Mr Trump about his personal taxes.
She brought up a recent investigation from The New York Times, which got its hands on the President’s tax returns and concluded he had about $US420 million in personal debt – most of it coming due in the next four years.
“The question is, on behalf of voters, who do you owe $421 million to?” Guthrie asked.
“What they did is illegal, number one. Also, the numbers are all wrong, that they’re releasing,” Mr Trump said.
“And just so you understand, when you have a lot of real estate – I have, you know, a lot of real estate, big stuff, great stuff – when I decided to run, I’m very underleveraged.
“I have a very, very small percentage of debt compared to – in fact, some of it I did as favours to institutions that wanted to loan me money.
“Four hundred million dollars, compared to the assets that I have, all of these great properties I have all over the world.”
He went on to list a few of the buildings he owns.
The picture Mr Trump painted is obviously at odds with the one described by The Times, which found most of the President’s major properties – particularly his golf resorts – had been haemorrhaging money for years, and he might find himself in a position where he is unable to pay his debts during his second term.
Mr Trump could clear up the facts here by releasing his tax returns to the public. He has refused to do that since before the 2016 election.
Guthrie asked whether Mr Trump owed any money to a foreign bank or entity.
“Not that I know of,” he replied.
“I want to say two things. One is that it’s a very small amount of money. Number two, it’s very straight. It’s very, very straight. But it’s a tiny percentage of the worth.”
In a moment certain to tickle the internet, one of the voters in the audience told Mr Trump he was handsome.
“Good evening Mr President. I have to say, you have a great smile,” she said, smiling broadly herself.
“Thank you. Thank you,” Mr Trump replied, flashing said great grin.
“He does. You’re so handsome when you smile,” she added.
The voter in question, Paulette Dale, was identified as a Republican leaning towards Joe Biden.
She did ask an actual question but to be honest I was cackling too loudly to hear it.
Anyway, I assume the Trump campaign will be selling some kind of smile-based merchandise within the hour.
After the Biden campaign’s fly swatter stunt last week, I have reached the conclusion that American political groupies will buy literally anything.
While we’re on this lighter note, many people are also amused by one of the “undecided” voters sitting behind Mr Trump, who has nodded along to literally everything he’s said. She even flashed a thumbs up for the camera during one of his answers.
The President’s supporters on social media love her.
The star of the Trump town hall was the woman sitting over Trump’s shoulder
It’s excellent to have a black woman nodding in agreement and showing support for Trump as he gets attacked by a hostile leftist pic.twitter.com/2XVzbn1v6a
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) October 16, 2020