Pandemic takes centerstage during final presidential debate

Credit CDENews

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Democrat candidate Joe Biden renewed his attacks on U.S. President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic at Thursday’s final debate before the Nov. 3 election, while Trump leveled unfounded corruption accusations at Biden and his family.

Opinion polls show Trump is trailing Biden, though the contest is tighter in some battleground states likely to decide the election.

After an opening segment on the pandemic, Thursday’s clash pivoted to rapid-fire exchanges over whether either candidate had improper foreign entanglements.

Trump repeated his accusations that Biden and his son Hunter engaged in unethical practices in China and Ukraine. No evidence has been verified to support the allegations, and Biden called them false and discredited.

Trump’s effort to uncover dirt on Hunter Biden’s Ukraine business ties led to the president’s impeachment. The president and his children have been accused of conflicts of interest of their own since he entered the White House in 2017, most involving the family’s international real estate and hotel businesses.

Relatively few voters have yet to make up their minds, and Trump’s window to influence the outcome may be closing. A record 47 million Americans already have cast ballots, eclipsing total early voting from the 2016 election.

The contentious first debate, when the two men traded insults, was watched by at least 73 million viewers. Trump passed up another planned debate last week after it was switched to a virtual format following his COVID-19 diagnosis.

On Thursday, the commission that oversees the debate removed plexiglass barriers separating the candidates after Trump provided proof he had tested negative for COVID-19, a source familiar with the matter said.

The commission also muted the candidates’ microphones to allow each to deliver two-minute statements on each new topic before turning them back on, in an effort to avoid the chaos of the first debate.

The approximately 200 attendees had their temperatures checked before entering the venue, and everyone was required to wear a medical mask at all times.