President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden began the first US presidential debate with heated exchanges over coronavirus, race relations and election integrity.
The two men frequently interrupted each other with angry interjections, with Mr Biden eventually snapping at his opponent: “Will you shut up, man?”
It was the most anticipated debate in 30 years. It may go down as the worst ever- a train wreck, or as they say Stateside, a hot mess.
It was chaotic, rancorous and very, very short on substance. President Trump defied the rules and the moderator, coming out as a street fighter from the start.
For the first half, Biden struggled for air time, dominated by his loud opponent. The biggest loser was the American public- deprived of a debate at a pivotal time for the country’s health, economy and stability.
The aim of the debate is to get people to vote. I’m not sure that this circus act of mudslinging and panto like cross-talk will have inspired many.
Decency was cast aside. As Biden talked about his dead son Beau, Trump interrupted to attack his living son, Hunter.
But it was his failure to condemn white supremacy that will replayed for days to come by Democrats. He didn’t pivot. This was a classic Trumpian base play.
Biden put in a moderate performance. But it may be enough to be deemed the winner. The president wanted to rile Biden, but he didn’t do enough.
He had a chance to play to moderates and undecideds- he didn’t take it. He didn’t look or sound like a man trying to gain ground in the six battleground states where he trails.
It was just like Trump at a rally – as if everyone watching was a believer. It was a huge risk to take.
The debate ended with a question from the moderator, who asked both candidates if they will “urge your supporters to stay calm during the vote counting period, not to engage in civil unrest and will you not declare victory until the election has been independently verified?”
Mr Trump, who has refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election, repeated his unfounded allegations that mail-in voting would lead to fraud.
He said he will tell his supporters “to go into the polls and watch very carefully because that’s what has to happen. I’m urging them to do it”.
Mr Biden replied: “Once the ballots are all counted, that’ll be the end of it. If it’s me, that’s fine. If it’s not me, I’ll support it.”