Ben Thomas (23C): Trump Stopped the Bleeding. It Wasn’t Enough.

After the dumpster fire that was President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden’s Sept. 29 debate, Thursday’s event felt almost normal. Moderator Kristen Welker’s iron grip on the proceedings and the Commission on Presidential Debates’ ability to mute the candidates worked to the president’s advantage: to his base and most voters already leaning his way, he was disciplined and convincing even as he lied through his teeth. Trump managed to stop himself from alienating any more of the electorate, but Biden’s empathy, competence and focus won the day. Where the president needed a bloodbath, he simply preserved the status quo. He threw away his shot.

Brammhi Balarajan (23C): For Trump, Racism No Longer Exists.

This wasn’t the first time Trump claimed he’s done more for the Black community than any other president, barring Abraham Lincoln. It certainly won’t be the last. But Trump reached new heights at the debate when he proclaimed he was the least racist person in the room in front of Welker, the first Black woman to moderate a presidential debate. Trump’s delusions and nonsensical speeches are hardly a surprise, but they surely solidified Biden’s lead. Trump can deny the existence of systemic racism and his perpetuation of it all he wants — when we kick him out of office Nov. 3, he won’t be laughing. 

Demetrios Mammas (23C): A Hollow Victory for the Vice President

In the final debate, Biden scored a modest victory over Trump. Biden stayed on message by hammering home a series of inspiring policy positions that included transitioning us to a green economy, tackling the coronavirus and rebuilding our relationships abroad. Trump botched serious questions about his handling of the coronavirus, racial justice and grievous immigration policies. However, he did astutely criticize Biden’s support of the 1994 crime bill, as well as his previous support for cuts to Social Security and Medicaid. Biden brushed it off. Instead, Biden stayed on a message of reforms to counter the damage of the Trump presidency. If the president were a competent candidate, he could’ve skewered the former vice president. He didn’t. Yet Biden’s deflections made his other victories from the night ring hollow. 

Viviana Barreto (22C): The Voice of America

Welker’s performance was single-handedly the best of the night. She gracefully raised important health care, immigration, climate change and systemic racism — while holding both candidates accountable for their record. Her ability to redirect the conversation during Trump and Biden’s tangential disagreements was flawless, even garnering compliments from the president himself. Most importantly, Welker pressed both candidates to showcase their next four years. Biden explained concrete policies to enact during his time in office. Trump, unsurprisingly, flipped through buzzwords and deflected key questions. She was America’s voice, and it was reassuring to watch her hold our elected officials responsible on a national stage. 

Yun Zhu (23C): Downplaying the Pandemic Won’t Help Trump Anymore

As expected, the coronavirus crisis was one of the central issues of the presidential debate. When questioned by Walker on the concrete policies to combat the pandemic, Trump once again tried to underplay the severity of the pandemic claiming a new vaccine would be weeks away, an argument unsupported by most experts. He further argued Americans are learning to live with the pandemic, but as Biden acutely pointed out, Americans are certainly not learning to live with COVID-19 — they are learning to die with it. While Trump falsely claimed the virus was completely under control, Biden delineated his plan to allocate resources to open up businesses and schools safely, distribute free vaccines and uphold social distancing rules. Trump’s inactivity won’t save Americans, but Biden’s plan will.

Martin Shane Li (22Ox, 24C): Trump and Biden Turn Toward the Center

The characteristic part of this debate was its civility, in sharp contrast to the previous debate. Trump, the much more bombastic speaker in the first debate, adjusted course to appeal to moderates who were turned off by his volatile performance. Biden is also turning toward the middle to pick up last-minute voters. Recently, we found out Biden is considering former Ohio Gov. John Kasich for a cabinet position in hopes to sway undecided Republicans. Even though Trumpers and Democrat loyalists each shout their candidate “won,” it’s the moderates who are the real judges, and we’ll find out soon enough who they deem the winner.

Sophia Ling (24C): It’s a Draw.

The muted microphones were somewhat effective — Trump’s screaming was reduced significantly. Yet, no one won. Biden did maintain a more confident, lively façade, but Trump helped himself by maintaining relatively civil. It certainly didn’t help Trump when he announced that he was the “least racist person in the room.” Neither candidate did much debating; each party just stated assertions that came from two drastically, incomparable worldviews. Though I consider the final debate to be a draw, Biden is given some edge against Trump when accounting for Trump’s verbal attack of Biden’s children and Trump’s belief in Biden’s failed 47-year tenure.

The above views are exclusively those of the Wheel’s Opinion staff.