Who won the final US presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden

It’s a done deal. We all know who is going to win the US election, and the only reason to doubt it is we’ve been hurt before.

The pair clashed in the final debate  before the election
The pair clashed in the final debate before the election

Watching the final presidential debate this morning made clear while the public may not have accepted it, US president Donald Trump has.

Like a boxer losing on points, Mr Trump needed a knockout blow last night, something, anything to redeem his chances. Watching him at last discuss policy with Joe Biden, it was clear no matter how hard he swung, there is nothing there. Looking tired and irritable, his is a campaign running on fumes.

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The president was challenged on his tax returns, but claimed he’s told his accountants to release them. He has a plan for healthcare, but won’t publish it.

He insisted he “takes full responsibility” for coronavirus in America, but announced “it’s not my fault, it’s China’s fault”. There were no ideas or last minute appeals to undecided voters. Mr Trump needed a big night and he didn’t turn up.

This was the final time the two candidates will face off before the election on November 3, yet there was more discussion of Mr Biden’s record than what Mr Trump could offer.

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The former reality show host was strongest challenging Mr Biden’s record on race relations, something the former VP could only blame on the Republican’s controlling congress. Mr Trump smelled blood, declaring “I got into politics because of you”. He sought to establish himself as the insurgent against the establishment, rather than a sitting president from inherited wealth.

Things were going better for Mr Trump, and he showed a rare sense of discipline. But it didn’t last, it isn’t his strength, it isn’t enough.

By the end, Mr Trump was announcing he was the “least racist person” in the building, claiming “possibly only Abraham Lincoln” had done more for the black community than he had. The former VP retorted “Donald Trump has a dog whistle about as big as a foghorn".

The pair also clashed over the failure to locate the parents of 500 children who had come across the border. Mr Biden explained they were separated deliberately to “disincentivise” them coming , while the president claimed it was the Democrats who built the cages that housed them. It was unpleasant.

There was some joy to be had, mainly in the mute button. After the shambolic last debate, NBC White House correspondent Kristen Welker kept both men to time, deploying the mute button as and when things threatened to spiral into farce. She couldn’t stop the absurd declarations from the president, but could control how long he was able to say them for.

It emerged hours before the debate that Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, is planning a Trump-branded media site. The message is now what matters, not the presidency.

The former vice-president is ahead in every poll, the Trump campaign is going after his son Hunter, and 12 days from a vote we still don’t have a Republican plan for healthcare.

Perhaps they have accepted they won’t need one.

Last night Mr Biden was calm, clear, yet slightly evasive in the way all good politicians are. The Trump experiment appears in its final days, and last night the president did nothing to save himself.

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