As President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden faced off in their last debate before the presidential election Thursday evening, their disparate strategies to appeal to undecided American voters became very clear: Biden presented his vision for the future of the country, and Trump attacked Biden.
Trump took many opportunities through the night to paint himself as an outsider and Biden as a Beltway stalwart. The President repeatedly refuted Biden’s policy discussion by pointing out that he had “eight years with Obama” to accomplish his proposals and didn’t get them done.
“Just a typical politician,” he said of Biden early in the evening. During a question about criminal justice reform Trump used his time to ask Biden why he hadn’t already enacted his newly proposed legislation while in office four years ago. “You’re all talk and no action,” he said before explaining that he ran for the presidency specifically because of the failures of the Obama administration. Trump also ran in 2000, when Obama was a member of the Illinois State Senate.
The strategy was a strange one for a sitting President, the holder of the most powerful title in U.S. politics, but it forced Biden to backtrack and defend his record while explaining why he didn’t accomplish his 2020 presidential vision while he was vice president in 2016.
Biden, at first, said that he wasn’t the President and that his job was to aide and support President Barack Obama and his decisions. Later, he argued that it was a Republican Congress that tied his and Obama’s hands.
During the Obama administration, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and the GOP made a “no compromise pledge” to “kill, stop, or slow down” any piece of legislation the White House backed or court seat they attempted to fill. “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president,” McConnell said of Obama in 2010.
The attacks from Trump came just one day after Obama joined Biden on the campaign trail in Philadelphia. “For eight years, Joe was the last one in the room when I faced a big decision,” Obama said. “He made me a better President. And he’s got the character and experience to make us a better country.”
Trump has long attacked Obama as part of his campaign, but the former President’s incredible popularity and favorability make him a dangerous target. Obama currently has a 58% approval rating. He typically laps Trump in popularity and was ranked by Americans as the “best President of the last 40 years.”
Biden has long spoken about his close working relationship and friendship with the former President while stumping. “I’m proud of having served with him. I’m proud of the job he did. I don’t think there is anything he has to apologize for,” Biden said of Obama after his record was attacked during last year’s primary debates.
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