On the pandemic that has claimed more than 220,000 American lives, Trump said America needed to prioritise rapidly reopening the economy.
“We have to recover, we cannot close up our nation,” Trump said. “We have to open our schools, we cannot close up a nation or we’re not going to have a nation.”
He continued: “People are losing their jobs, they are committing suicide, there is depression, alcohol, drugs, at a level that nobody has ever seen before.
“I have said it often, the cure cannot be worse than the problem itself and that is what is happening.”
Biden said the country needed to prioritise public health and reopening the economy safely.
Referring to the US death toll, the largest in the world, he said: “Anyone who is responsible for that many deaths should not remain as President of the United States of America.”
In response to Trump’s insistence that Americans were learning to live with the virus, Biden replied: “Learning to live with it? Come on, we’re dying with it.”
Learning to live with it? Come on, we’re dying with it.
Democrat nominee Joe Biden
Trump claimed that Biden was a “corrupt politician” because his son Hunter had business dealings in Ukraine and China when his father was vice-president.
“Release your tax returns or stop talking about corruption,” Biden replied, “I have not taken a penny from any foreign source ever in my life. You have not released a single solitary year of your tax returns. What are you hiding?”
Biden said Trump was attacking his family in order to distract from his handling of the pandemic.
“It is not about his family and my family,” Biden said, speaking directly to the camera. “It is about your family. And your family is hurting badly.”
Trump falsely claimed that Biden wanted to abolish the private healthcare insurance of 180 million Americans, a policy proposed by Bernie Sanders but rejected by Biden.
“He’s a very confused guy,” Biden said. “He thinks he’s running against somebody else.”
Moderator Kristen Welker, of NBC News, was widely praised for maintaining control during the debate, a task aided by the fact the candidates’ microphones were muted during their opponent’s initial answer.
Trump sought to contrast himself with Biden by saying his opponent was “all talk and no action”.
“I’m not a typical politician,” Trump said. “That’s why I got elected.”
Trump leapt upon Biden for saying he would “transition from the oil industry”, predicting this would prove unpopular in energy-producing states such as Pennsylvania and Texas.
“Oh, that’s a big statement,” Trump said.
In a section on race relations, the President described himself as “the least racist person in this room”.
“He pours fuel on every single racist fire,” Biden replied, describing Trump as “one of the most racist presidents we have had in modern history”.
A poll of debate watchers by CNN showed that 53 per cent of viewers believed Biden won the debate compared to 39 per cent for Trump. That compared to 60 per cent for Biden and 28 per cent for Trump after the first debate.
Matthew Knott is North America correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.