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Trump, Biden go at it -- from a distance -- in town halls


October 16, 2020

President Donald Trump with "Today" show host Savannah Guthrie during a town-hall-style event at the Pérez Art Museum Miami, on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020. As Trump fielded questions here, Joe Biden was appearing at a separate town-hall-style event held in Philadelphia. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden squared off, in a way, Thursday night in dueling televised town halls that showcased striking differences in temperament, views on racial justice and approaches to a pandemic that has reshaped the nation.

Coming just two and half weeks before Election Day, the night offered crystalizing contrasts and a national, if divided, audience. But it seemed unlikely to have produced a needed moment for a president running out of time or opportunities to appeal beyond his core base.

He was defensive about his administration's handling of the coronavirus, which has claimed more than 215,000 American lives, and evasive when when pressed about whether he took a required COVID-19 test before his first debate with Biden. Angry and combative, Trump refused to denounce the QAnon conspiracy group - and only testily did so regarding white supremacists.


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