PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The presidential candidates squared off from a distance in dueling town halls Thursday night. President Donald Trump was in Miami, Democratic nominee Joe Biden here in Philadelphia.
They may have been separated by 1,200 miles but both faced tough questions from voters. The formats were similar but the feeling was very different.
President Trump took questions with NBC News’ Savannah Guthrie in Miami, while former Vice President Joe Biden did the same with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos from inside the Constitution Center in Philadelphia.
The president withdrew from plans for a second head-to-head debate after his Oct. 2 COVID-19 diagnosis prompted organizers to say it would be held virtually.
The president’s overall COVID-19 response was the first subject addressed by both men.
“Many people are getting this and nobody is being blamed and everyone is working hard to get this out of our country,” Trump said.
“It’s a presidential responsibility to lead. He didn’t talk about what needed to be done because he kept worrying, in my view, about the stock market,” Biden said.
The separate town hall format left the chaos of Cleveland and the first debate behind. There were multiple interruptions in Miami and far less so with Biden in Philly.
“If young black women and men vote, you can determine the outcome of this election,” Biden said.
In both town halls, candidates took questions from a bipartisan audience. On the election, Trump commented on accepting a possible transfer of power.
“And they talk about ‘will you accept a peaceful transfer of power?’ And the answer is yes I will, but I want it to be an honest election. I really feel we’re gonna win,” he said.
Trump was also urged to denounce white supremacy.
“I denounce white supremacy. What’s your next question?” he responded.
On the pending confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court…
“I want her to get approved and I want her to go by the law,” Trump said.
“I believe it’s inconsistent to put someone on the court. I think it should have been held until the election is over,” Biden said.
Biden was indirect when asked if he would consider expanding the Supreme Court.
“I’m open to considering what happens from that point on,” he said.
Locally, outside the Constitution Center, small groups of Biden supporters gathered. Most onlookers dispersed midway through the evening’s event.
The final debate is set for next Thursday at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennesee.