The first debate of the US election campaign was last night characterised by President Trump’s chaotic and confrontational style. Trump’s repeated interruptions and personal attacks on Democrat candidate Joe Biden during the nearly 90-minue debate exemplified his re-election strategy, which has focused on stirring up a core group of hardcore supporters.
Trump’s relentless attacks at times flustered Biden - who Trump has tried for several months to portray as having dementia - but Biden went on the offensive too, calling Trump a "clown”, a “racist", and “the worst president America has ever had”.
Trump has previously suggested that he will not leave office if the election results are unsatisfactory to him. Meanwhile, Biden is ahead of Trump in national opinion polls by 7 percentage points.
In a CBS poll of debate watchers, 69% described the debate as making them feel upset, with 19% saying it made them feel pessimistic.
At times Biden adopted a tone of weary resignation while he struggled to argue with a president who enjoys confrontation, insult and argument. Trump’s most bruising assaults were on Biden’s family, with the former vice president having to repeat that the president's statements were incorrect. At one point, Biden said, "Will you shut up, man?"