Donald Trump and Joe Biden were in different cities for the dueling town halls Thursday that replaced their debate. But they may as well have been in different universes.
Replacing the presidential debate with competing conversations with voters was a fitting symbol of a politically divided and socially distanced America. Instead of speaking to, or even shouting at, each other, Trump and Biden spoke past one another on different networks, allowing Americans to choose a favored candidate to describe reality as they want to see it.
The town halls hosted by NBC in Miami for Trump and ABC in Philadelphia for Biden are unlikely to attract nearly the audience a debate would, history suggests, and even many Republicans were baffled by Trump’s decision to withdraw from the second presidential debate when he’s down in the polls and needs every opportunity possible to try disrupt the race’s status quo.
Going into the town hall, Biden led Trump by 9.2 points in the NBC News national polling average. Most swing-state polls in recent months show the Democrat to be the favorite.
It was not clear the town halls would change the trajectory.
Here are five takeaways from the two events:
1. TRUMP GIVES OXYGEN TO EXTREMISTS — AGAIN
At the first debate, Trump claimed he didn’t know much about the Proud Boys, a violent far-right extremist group, but told them to “stand back and stand by” in a move they heard as an endorsement.
In his NBC town hall, Trump claimed he didn’t know much about QAnon, the groundless conspiracy theory that claims elites r