Takeaways From Dueling Presidential Town Halls

Trump and Biden are scheduled to debate for a final time on Thursday evening.

(photo: Screen Captures/NBC/ABC)

President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden participated in simultaneous televised town halls on Thursday evening in lieu of the second scheduled presidential debate, which was scrapped after the president tested positive for COVID-19 and declined to participate in a virtual event. 

On ABC News, Biden took questions from voters in Philadelphia, while Trump did so on NBC News in Miami. 

Below is an assessment of what the candidates had to say about some key issues.

Amy Coney Barrett 

Trump defended his ability to nominate a justice to the Supreme Court weeks before a general election, calling his nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett “somebody that’s outstanding.” 

“She has been an absolute star, and I’m extremely proud of it,” Trump said. 

Biden, however, said that moving forward on confirming Barrett so close to an election would be “inconsistent with the constitutional principles.” 

“I think it should be — should have been held until the next — this election is over, see what the makeup of the Senate is going to be,” Biden said. 

Roe v. Wade

Trump said he never spoke with Barrett about how she would rule on a challenge to Roe v. Wade, if one came before the Supreme Court. 

The president also declined to answer a question about whether or not he would like to see Roe overturned. 

“I don’t want to do anything to influence anything right now,” Trump said. 

Trump has previously pledged to appoint “pro-life” justices to the Supreme Court. 

Biden was not asked about abortion on Thursday, but as a candidate for president, he has expressed support for codifying Roe and has reversed his previous support of the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of taxpayer funds for elective abortion procedures. 

‘Court Packing’ 

After Trump nominated Barrett to fill the Supreme Court seat vacated by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, some progressives issued calls for Biden to expand the Supreme Court in response, to include more justices to sway its ideological tilt. 

Biden has thus far refused to say whether he would be willing to do so as president, arguing Trump is using the matter to distract from his nomination. Biden has indicated he is “not a fan” of the practice, but has not ruled it out. 

Asked if voters have a right to know his position prior to Election Day, Biden replied, “They do have a right to know where I stand. And they will have a right to know where I stand before they vote.”

“So you will come out with a clear position before Election Day?” ABC moderator George Stephanopoulos asked. 

“Yes, depending on how they handle this,” Biden said.


Biden was asked by a voter who described herself as the mother of a transgender daughter how he would reverse the “dangerous and discriminatory agenda” of the Trump administration and work to protect the rights of “LGBTQ” people. 

I will flat out just change the law,” Biden replied, adding, “The idea that an 8-year-old child or a 10-year-old child decides, you know, I decided ‘I want to be transgender; that’s what I think I’d like to be — it would make my life a lot easier.’ There should be zero discrimination.”

Trump and Biden are scheduled to debate for a final time on Oct. 22.