Highlights and Reactions of the Second Presidential Debate

Adriana Morga

The final presidential debate before Election Day, which aired on Thursday evening, came with discussions about COVID-19, immigration, racial justice and climate change, among other topics. Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s and President Donald Trump’s meme-worthy facial expressions aside, the debate was the last opportunity for both candidates to prove themselves to last-minute voters and show what they aim to accomplish if elected.

Several professors from SF State shared their reactions to the debate and revealed their frustration with statements from Trump.

These are the highlights of the last presidential debate:

Fighting COVID-19

Led by Kristen Welker, the debate started with the topic of the COVID-19 pandemic. Welker’s first question was: How would you lead the country in the next state of the Coronavirus pandemic?

President Trump asserted that the mortality of COVID-19 cases has decreased, while Biden criticized Trump’s constant downplaying of the pandemic.

“Trump has no clear plan for eliminating the pandemic and strengthening the economy though he focuses more on the economy,” Emma Sanchez, SF State professor of public health and social epidemiologist, said.

During this part of the debate, both candidates discussed potential plans for further development of a vaccine for COVID-19 and the concerns parents may have in sending their children to school amid the pandemic.

Trump mentioned that Johnson & Johnson and Medina were among the companies that are working on the vaccine. Johnson & Johnson vaccine trials are currently on pause, after an “unexplained illness” was noted in a study participant.


National Security

During the second section of the debate, Welker referred to newly released information that Iran and Russia are seeking to intervene in the U.S. elections and asked the candidates how they would avoid this from happening.

During the debate, Trump said that Biden has benefited from money from Wall Street and his son’s businesses in foreign countries.

Anthony Bobulinski, an ex-business partner of Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, alleged at a Trump news conference that the former VP was involved in negotiations surrounding an investment venture with a Chinese oil company; however, “Corporate records reviewed by The Wall Street Journal show no role for Joe Biden.”

“I think American sovereignty is more important than Joe Biden’s fundraising,” Professor Mark Allan Davis from the Africana Studies Department said. “[Trump] cannot prove anything because he is lying.”


Citing the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, Welker asked the candidates about their healthcare plans if the Affordable Care Act were to be overturned.

Both candidates claimed they would implement their own healthcare plans. Biden named his plan the “Biden plan,” which would have a public option. Trump said he would come up with a new, “beautiful” healthcare plan that would protect pre-existing conditions.


The Trump administration has not been able to find the parents of over 500 children who were separated at the border, according to a report published on Oct. 20. Citing this news story, Welker asked the candidates if there was a plan to reunite the children with their parents.


President Trump asserted that children who migrated to the U.S. do not come with their parents, but rather, either with “coyotes,” “cartels” or “lots of bad people.” Biden gave the counterargument that the 545 children separated at the border did come with their parents, but they have been unable to be located.

“All of this does not justify the fact that you cannot separate a child from the parent,” said International Relations Department Professor Mahmood Monshipouri, reacting to Trump’s statement about children separations at the border. “This is immoral. This is illegal. This is truly unwarranted.”

Racial Justice

Moving to the “Race in America” section of the debate, Welker started by directly asking Biden what he would say to Black and Brown parents who fear for their children’s safety.


“Trump’s refusal to speak to the Black community speaks volumes,” said Brianna Morales, SF State’s debate team coach. “He knows nothing or our history or our community. He quoted the wrong person about the super predator’s comment, he doesn’t show any empathy or solidarity. He’s cold.”

Climate Change

In the last section of the debate, Welker pointed out the different views of both candidates on climate change and asked how they would fight climate change while also supporting job growth.

Trump said he believes wind turbines would create more carbon emission and they would hurt birds, while making the argument that natural gas was good and doing actions against climate change would hurt businesses in the country.

“‘It’ll kill all the birds!’ His regulation rollbacks will kill Black and Brown families,” Davis said.