Experts discuss the Trump, Biden dueling town halls

ABC News contributors Rahm Emanuel, Sara Fagen, Yvette Simpson, Matt Dowd talk about the candidates’ performances after they each hosted their own town halls in lieu of the canceled debate.
7:29 | 10/16/20

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Transcript for Experts discuss the Trump, Biden dueling town halls
While the president was taking voter questions tonight at a town hall in Miami, Joe Biden took questions from uncommitted voters at a town hall in Philadelphia right here at ABC. A powerhouse roundtable here to weigh in. Matt, let's begin with you. Two very different tones tonight from both candidates. President trump aggressively tackling the issues on NBC and a contentious town hall. Joe Biden with a calmer, more measured performance on ABC. Matt, whose approach worked, do you think? Joe Biden's by far. I mean, I think when we're in the midst of such chaos in the country and everything that's going on, from the pandemic, the economy, racial injustice, climate change, all of that, I think voters want and desire somebody more calm, considered, clear. And I think by any standard, Joe Biden's town hall and performance at his town hall was far more on the side of calm and clear than on the side of chaos and more division and more argument. So on that standard, which is where I think the country is today, which I why I think Joe Biden has the lead he does, Biden won that standoff. The president has lost support among senior seat Zens, a key group for him in 2016. He was in Florida tonight. The state is a true battleground this year. Rahm, how does he win back senior citizens, and why has Biden's approach to the virus resonated? A couple of things I would say. I'm not sure the president can do that. He's done a number of things, trying to do law and order, cultural war, telling seniors they were basically dispensable. Everything he's done on covid, that is the message he's sent them. Joe Biden is a reassuring voice for them. He will be the first Democrat since Al gore in 2000 to win senior votes. Here's the thing. Trump made a huge mistake tonight letting Joe Biden have his own moment. Big tactical mistake. Campaigns, number one rule, you got to do everything you got to, do hope your opponent does everything they did. Joe Biden got a gift from Donald Trump today. Two, chaos and confusion on one side, calm and compassion and clarity is on the other side. And that contrast, because at the end of the day, what the voters are looking for is somebody who will bring the country together. Joe Biden is scratching their emotional itch right now. President trump was evasive on the coronavirus, saying he didn't know when he took his last test before getting sick, saying he did not remember being briefed by his national security adviser on the severity of the still calling into question the effectiveness of pace raflks. Sara, how is his approach on the virus playing across the country, do you think? I think on tone, you know, he doesn't get great marks, candidly. In part it is because he's inconsistent. That's a simple question. Did you get the test on the day of the debate or not? He could have answered that. Now, I will say on the substance of actually fighting the virus, on, you know, therapeutics, on record-breaking vaccine research, on making sure that the country has enough ppe and ventilators, and all the things that we need to do to help people recover from this disease when they get it, his administration has done pretty well. He would be better to talk about those things and have one very kind of clear, simple, consistent statement about how Americans should protect themselves when out in public. Joe Biden was pressed tonight on his tax plan that will raise corporate taxes and taxes on the wealthy. But critics say this could hurt the economy more than help. Yvette, will this plan help or hurt Biden? You know, I think Biden was pretty clear today. I was actually glad when he reached into his jacket and pulled out the notes to make sure that he had the right numbers, even saying that wall Street agrees that his plan will add more jobs. I agree that we actually improve the economy by helping those in the middle so that they have the resources to be able to push our economy up, rather than trickle-down. So I think he did a really great job, which he wasn't able to do in the debate because he kept getting interrupted. Talking about, one, how much money he's going to unlock by making sure the wealthiest Americans and corporations pay their fair share. Also, putting more money back into middle Americans and lower-wealth Americans so that they have the money they need to invest in the economy and build themselves back up. So I think, actually, his plan is great. I think he did a great job of articulating that today, using real numbers. He got real clear answers out. I think he did a wonderful job. Donald Trump declined to condemn the conspiracy movement q-anon tonight, saying he didn't know much about it. Sara, why is he still not disavowing this widely discredited idea? He overthinks these questions sometimes, Byron. He's thinking about some individual who's on the internet and reading this stuff, and they're probably a good person, but they've, for whatever reason, you know -- you know, ascribe to this philosophy. This isn't complicated. It's crazy. Just say it. He's had similar issues in disavowing other groups, right? White supremacist groups. He comes back later and cleans it up. Why, on what seems to most reasonable people, easy things to knock down, why does he continue to struggle? I think he turns this into a battle with the press. You know, this turns into, why would you ask me this question? What people who are close to the president will say is he's offended by these questions. Like, of course I'm against white supremacy, who's not against white supremacy? And so again, whether you want to use the word overthink, or just too confrontational, he takes the wrong lesson from the back and forth that he has on these exchanges with he should just shut it down and move on to something substantive, where I think he has a better record than Joe Biden on most issues. Yvette what makes you nervous that president trump might be able to do between now and election day to pull this out? I don't know that Donald Trump is fundamentally going to change who he is, which I think is what's required for him to get out of this hole. He gets ies, either in debates where he's combative, or on stages by himself, where he says things he can't take back which are ridiculous. I think his key and this is what he's pushing, voter suppression. That's what we're fighting he fully intends to steal this election. We've got battles across states, litigation happening to make sure votes are counted, they're trying to take away people's votes. I think trump in his last ditch effort, he's getting out in Miami, dancing around with no mask on, trying to get his folks hyped up. But I think he knows at the end of the day the only way he wins this is if he steals it, which is why I think this Amy coney Barrett nomination is one way that he expects to do that. And of crse all of the things that the secretaries of state who are Republican who support him are doing as well. I don't think he has a chance if this is a full and fair election to win at this point. Matt, I'll give you the last word. Donald Trump, shorts on fire, back against the wall, bill collector at the door. What's he do? At this point, hope for a mistake, which I think is one of the fundamental things by Biden, hope for a fundamental mistake in this race that puts Biden down, knocks Biden down a few points. 18 million people have already voted. By next week 25 million people have already voted. He has less time than you think, because this election is going to be basically decided by the Friday before the last day of voting, because two-thirds of people will have voted by that Thank you all for your time. Always grateful.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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