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Biden used his town hall to expound on his policy plans, but you probably won’t hear about them

October 16, 2020, 3:34 AM UTC

Vice President Joe Biden’s town hall Thursday evening was boring but informative. And that’s why you probably won’t hear too much about it. 

President Donald Trump, meanwhile, was told that he was handsome, refused to condemn QAnon, a far-right conspiracy theory about Satan-worshiping pedophiles, and said he didn’t remember whether he had received a COVID-19 test on the day of the presidential debate. All easy and emotionally triggering sound bites to repost or play over and over on news programs. 

Thursday evening’s dueling town halls accomplished what many analysts feared they would by pitting the two presidential candidates against each other: The most entertaining won the evening. And President Trump knows how to command an audience.

Mastering the art of entertainment value was a large part of his winning strategy in 2016, when stations like CNN aired hours of unfiltered Trump rallies. “We wanted access, and Donald Trump gave it to us,” Jeff Zucker, the head of CNN and former president and CEO of NBCUniversal said after the election. 

At a campaign rally this week, Trump blatantly announced his strategy. He told the audience that he agreed to the town hall for a “free hour” of TV coverage. 

Biden, meanwhile, took his time with answers. Some went on for so long that he was cut off by ABC host George Stephanopoulos. When that did happen, he told those in the audience that he would be happy to speak to them after the special to expand on his views and policy proposals.

Biden covered a wide range of topics including COVID-19, the economy, the Supreme Court, LGBTQ rights, police brutality, and racial equality. He also largely ignored Trump, choosing instead to focus on what he would do if elected.

“I’m running as a proud Democrat, but I’m going to be an American President,” he told the audience. “I’m going to take care of those who voted against me as well as those who voted for me. That’s what Presidents do.”

A few channels away, Trump faced tough questioning from NBC’s Savannah Guthrie and friendly lobs from an audience in Miami, Florida. But despite the town hall audience, Trump often didn’t have qualified answers to the TODAY anchor’s questions. 

When Guthrie asked the President why he promoted a conspiracy theory on Twitter that Biden attempted to have SEAL Team 6 killed to cover up the fake death of Osama bin Laden, the President defended himself by saying it was a retweet that he decided to “put out there.” Guthrie told the president that he wasn’t “someone’s crazy uncle who can retweet whatever.”

Guthrie also pushed the President on his recently revealed taxes. He did not deny that he owed around $400 million and instead said it was good that he was in debt.

Like much of this election, Trump was the center of attention on Thursday. But while he provided the entertainment, he made many missteps.

Biden, who suffers (or perhaps, depending on who you ask, benefits) from an inability to speak in quick sound bites made for tight news packages or Twitter videos, likely won’t see as much out of the event. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Ahead in most polls by double digits at this point, the former vice president likely doesn’t mind stepping out of the way and letting the President continue on his current path.