First 2020 Presidential Election Debate: The Highlights

Written by: Hailey Bergren

With more than 73 million viewers watching, the first debate between the 2020 presidential candidates, President Donald Trump and Joseph R. Biden, was unlike any before. Tension was high between both parties from the beginning of the night featuring chaotic bitter exchanges and name-calling. Chris Wallace, the moderator for the evening, could best be described as a mediator as he struggled to maintain order during the debate. The main topics for the evening included the Supreme Court, the economy, the coronavirus pandemic and more.  

Here are some of the highlights:

The debate began with the topic of healthcare. Trump emphasized his intention, mentioned numerous times throughout his last campaign, to repeal and replace Obamacare. While Trump has taken steps in his presidency to repeal Obamacare, Biden pointed out that we have yet to hear about his plans to replace it. Trump made numerous promises that appear to have no plan backing them, such as lowering drug prices by 80-90%. In addition, Trump hardly let Biden get a word in on the topic. Biden eventually shouted over Trump asking him to “please shut up,” arguably the quote of the night. 

When the topic of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic was brought into the debate, Biden sought to portray the president’s handling of the COVID-19 emergency as a deadly failure. There are 7.15 million confirmed infections in the US, as of September 29th, and more than 205,000 deaths. Trump countered with steps he has taken, including restricting some travel and speeding along the vaccine, which is contrary to a statement released by the CDC earlier this month. 

Biden stated that Trump “panicked” and made the coronavirus into a topic of trust and transparency with Americans. Trump replied that Biden “would have lost far more people” and that Biden wants to “shut down this country and I [Trump] want to keep it open.”

Recently, both presidential candidates’ 2019 tax returns were released to the public. It was reported that while Biden paid nearly $300,000 in taxes this past year, which was released hours before the debate, Trump paid $750 in taxes for 2016 and 2017 and zero for years before then, according to the New York Times. This raised a lot of eyebrows across the country, people were enraged by the fact that they pay more in taxes than the president. Trump denied these claims, stating that he actually paid millions of dollars in taxes. However, he did not have much to say when Biden suggested that he release his full tax record from 2019.

Another statement that has been getting a lot of attention from the night, made by Trump, was in regards to the topic of race. Biden explained that his plans to address racial discrimination in the US is “about equity and equality.” After this statement, Trump brought up the 1994 crime bill, which Mr. Biden helped draft as the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. This bill largely increased police and prison funding.  Trump then stated “You have treated the Black community about as bad as anybody in this country.” to which Biden responded with the question of who he needed to condemn.

The moment that has been receiving the most attention was when Trump was explicitly asked to make a statement denouncing white supremicist groups He continued to point out that antifa is the real problem in this country and instructed white supremacist groups, such as the Proud Boys, to simply “stand back and stand by.” Social media posts indicated that members of the Proud Boys took the comment as a sign of encouragement from the president. One Proud Boys social media account even posted a photo of the group’s logo with the words “stand back and stand by” alongside it. 

The debate concluded with Wallace asking both candidates if they would commit to urging calm and avoiding declaring victory until the election results are independently verified. Trump stated that he is “urging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully.” Whereas Biden emphasized all ballots in the race must be counted. It is without a doubt, the 2020 presidential election will make history.

You can watch the debate full On CNN’s YouTube channel for free. The next presidential debate is scheduled to take place on October 15th at the University of Utah. You can stream this debate for free through For more information on the election and voting, visit

One thought on “First 2020 Presidential Election Debate: The Highlights

  1. Hailey congratulations on a well written debate summary. You accurately described what transpired and your anecdotal comments were well warranted. Real proud of you. Keep up the good work. Love you. Ralph and Jill


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