The second and final presidential debate between US president Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden became a trending Twitter topic before it even began, but one aspect of the debate has sent social media into a frenzy.
The first debate was slammed as a “disgrace” and a “total sh**show” after it devolved into a shouting contest between the two candidates.
This time around, President Trump’s behaviour was once again a main discussion point during the debate – but for an entirely different reason.
Trump was criticised after September’s debate for continuously interrupting and speaking over the top of his rival, causing major changes to be introduced to Friday’s event including strict time limits and a mute button.
As the final debate kicked off, it soon became apparent that the president was taking a different tactic.
His demeanour was calmer and interruptions were far and few between. He even managed to compliment the moderator, journalist Kristen Welker.
The radically different approach to the debate set tongues wagging on Twitter.
Is Trump on some kind of sedative?
I’ve never seen him this calm.
— chris evans (@notcapnamerica) October 23, 2020
Trump is WILDLY calm... This is already going so much better than the first debate.
— Henry Rodgers (@henryrodgersdc) October 23, 2020
Trump taking a completely different approach tonight thus far. Staying calm and making his points. Far more disciplined than I've seen him in a long time. He would be in a far better position if this had been his approach in debate 1.
— (((AG))) (@AGHamilton29) October 23, 2020
I think Trump has been incredibly effective this debate
Calm, reasonable on the coronavirus
And very effective putting Biden on the defensive over his dealings
— Will Chamberlain (@willchamberlain) October 23, 2020
But while most agreed the debate ran smoother this time around, not all viewers were convinced it was enough to put Trump in the lead.
If the media gives Trump credit for “looking presidential” because he wasn’t foaming at the mouth and spitting chunks of Adderall, I am going to need some help to calm down.
— RetroCrone (@RetroCrone) October 23, 2020
TrUmP iS wInNiNg BeCaUsE hE's NoT yElLiNg. #Debates2020
— Matt Szafranski (@MSzafranski413) October 23, 2020
trump trying to be calm is killing me.
— bri (@bigshitxtalker) October 23, 2020
Trump's strategy seems to be to demand the last word even if its just repeating the same talking points he covered already. The fact that he is not yelling will mean many people will praise his performance as mature and presidential, but the substance is much the same.
— Don Moynihan (@donmoyn) October 23, 2020
I don’t wanna see any headlines about Trump looking calm tomorrow when his entire presidency was violent and racist.
— Voto Latino (@votolatino) October 23, 2020
Muted microphones introduced to prevent chaos
Each candidate's microphone could be silenced to allow the other to make two minutes of opening remarks at the beginning of each 15-minute segment of the debate.
Both microphones were to be turned on to allow a back and forth after that time.
Trump's campaign immediately objected to the change when it was announced, but said he would still take part.
Whether because of that button or the terrible reviews of the first debate - especially for Trump - the candidates interrupted each other far less frequently, even as they clashed on issues ranging from the coronavirus to crime to global warming.
While Trump and Biden responded to each other's answers - shaking their heads disapprovingly or smiling, in the case of Biden - the two largely avoided speaking over one another. And neither man tried to speak at length while he was muted during opening questions.
Trump, in particular, was on his best behaviour, especially early on, and especially when it came to the moderator, whom he'd repeatedly attacked before the debate.
"So far, I respect very much the way you're handling this," Trump said to NBC's Kristen Welker when she gave him time to respond to Biden at one point.
Campaigns in home stretch
With less than two weeks to go before the November 3 election, Trump trails Biden in most national public opinion polls but the contest looks closer in a number of states that could determine the winner.
Biden's campaign raised vastly more funds than US President Donald Trump's campaign in early October, leaving the former vice president with a major cash advantage in the final stretch of the campaign.
Biden raised about US$130 million (A$183 million) during the October 1-14 period, about three times the roughly US$44 million raised by Trump's campaign, but he spent about twice as much as Trump did during the period.
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