The second presidential debate: highlights and takeaways


Abby Jay

The second presidential debate on Oct. 22 between incumbent Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden covered a variety of topics in which both candidates discussed their policies and political agendas.

Isabel Rodriguez, News Section Editor

The Oct. 22 debate between Republican candidate incumbent Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden seemed much calmer than the last, with the threat of a mute button looming to prevent outbursts.  The statements that were made, however, were quite impactful.  

The debate, hosted by NBC News’ Kristen Welker, had predetermined questions on the topics of COVID-19, national security and the election, american families, immigration, race, and climate change.

The Key Issues:

1. COVID-19: Similar to in the presidential first debate, Trump downplayed the severity of the virus, even as infections reach their highest point in months, saying, “There was a big spike in Florida, and now it’s gone. There was a very big spike in Texas; it’s now gone.”  He mostly repeated talking points already used by him and his administration.  

Biden used this opportunity to criticize Trump’s handling of the pandemic, stating that the nation would be better off if he were in charge. Biden’s plan would request every governor to implement a mask mandate or work with local officials to put local mandates in place.

2. National Security:  When asked about the influence of foreign countries on the outcome of the upcoming election, the former vice president promised to punish those who threaten the integrity of the voting process. He said, “They will pay a price if I am elected. They’re interfering with American sovereignty.” He specifically cited countries like China, Russia and Iran, the last two confirmed by national security advisors to be meddling in this year’s election.  

Trump replied to this by repeating claims that Biden has received large sums from Russia, despite no evidence this is the case. He also said, “No one has been tougher than me on Russia,” citing his sanctions on the country and the resources he provided Ukraine.

3. Healthcare in America: Trump talked about getting rid of the individual mandate, “the worst part of Obamacare.” If reelected, Trump said he plans to terminate Obamacare and replace it with a new healthcare policy. He clarified that his plan “will always protect people with preexisting [conditions].”

Biden clarified his plan, referencing it as “Bidencare” or “Obamacare with a public option.”  He then went on to say that he supports private insurance. Biden also attacked Trump for not yet providing an explicit healthcare plan.

4. Immigration: On the topic of family separations Trump said “They built the cages,” in reference to the Obama-Biden administration. Cages were built under Obama’s presidency, however the makeshift shelters were only designed for children left unattended at the border and were only temporary holding units.  

Biden said that they “made a mistake” during the Obama administration by failing on the promise of immigration reform with record deportations and family separations at the border.

Under Trump’s “zero-tolerance policy” children were deliberately separated from their parents at the border and imprisoned for extended periods of time. Trump also mentioned his termination of the catch-and-release policy held by the Obama administration.

5. Race: On one of the most relevant topics of the night, Biden addressed African American families directly, expressing sympathy for their struggles.  He said, “The fact of the matter is, there is institutional racism in America.”

Trump called himself “the least racist person in the room.” He attacked Biden for his role in approving the 1994 crime bill that resulted in the mass incarceration of African Americans and pointed out how beneficial his own criminal reform efforts have been in reducing mass incarceration.   

6. Climate change: When asked how he would address climate change, Biden said, “I would transition from the oil industry… because the oil industry pollutes significantly.” There is still some ambiguity on where Biden stands on fracking. Biden also detailed plans to retrofit buildings in order to save energy and harness renewable resources like wind and solar power.  

Trump downplayed the effects of climate change. He said, “we have the cleanest air, the cleanest water.” However, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, data has shown that over the course of his first two years in office, the number of days with polluted air increased by 15 percent. Not even a year earlier, the US experienced some of its lowest pollution numbers since 1980. The US currently has the cleanest air on record.


This debate covered specific policies far more than in the first. Whatever the outcome of the election, both candidates clarified their stances and agendas.