Fittingly for a debate amid a bitter campaign, the two men frequently interrupted each other with angry interjections, with Mr Biden eventually snapping at Mr Trump saying “Will you shut up, man?”
That was after the president badgered him over his refusal to comment on whether he would try to expand the Supreme Court in retaliation if Mr Trump’s high court pick, Amy Coney Barrett, was confirmed to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Trump downplayed and worsened the crisis. He failed to lead, and now over 200,000 Americans are dead. pic.twitter.com/Pb0r2rhkc0
— The Democrats (@TheDemocrats) September 30, 2020
The pandemic’s effects were in plain sight, with the candidates’ lecterns spaced far apart, all of the guests in the small crowd tested and the traditional opening handshake scrapped.
The men did not shake hands and, while neither candidate wore a mask to take the stage, their families did sport face coverings.
Mr Trump struggled to define his ideas for replacing the Affordable Care Act on health care in the debate’s early moments and defended his nomination of Ms Barrett, declaring: “I was not elected for three years, I’m elected for four years”.
“We won the election. Elections have consequences. We have the Senate. We have the White House and we have a phenomenal nominee, respected by all,” he added.
The Tuesday night debate offers a massive platform for Mr Trump and Mr Biden to outline their starkly different visions for a country facing multiple crises, including racial justice protests and a pandemic that has killed more than 200,000 Americans and cost millions of jobs.