Different tones for Trump, Biden on COVID-19, economy and taxes in dueling town halls

The pandemic was a central part of the separate events, with President Trump criticized for his handling of virus response and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden pressed on a vaccine mandate.
9:00 | 10/16/20

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Transcript for Different tones for Trump, Biden on COVID-19, economy and taxes in dueling town halls
you'll not hear me race baiting, you'll not hear me dividing, I'm going to try to unify. We've done a good job. The strongest economy in the world, we're coming around the corner, vaccines coming out soon. Reporter: Both candidates appearing in critical battleground states. Vice president Biden in an ABC news town hall in Pennsylvania. This president embraces all the thugs in the world. Best friends with the leader in North Korea, sending love letters. He doesn't take on Putin in any way. Reporter: President trump in Florida at an NBC news town We are running the remnants of whatever is left much better than the previous administration, which ran it very badly. Reporter: Biden currently leads trump nationally in the latest ABC news/"washington post" poll by 12 points, 54-42. President was informed how dangerous this virus was. It is a presidential responsibility to lead, and he didn't do that. He didn't talk about what needed to be done. Because he kept worrying, in my view, about the stock market. Reporter: The covid-19 crisis front and center. So my question for you is, if a vaccine were approved between now and the end of the year, would you take it? And if you were to become president, would you mandate that everyone has to take it? Two things. Number one, president trump talks about things that just aren't accurate, about everything from vaccines, we're going to have one right away, it's going to happen, so on. The point is that if the scientists, if the body of scientists say that this is what is ready to be done and it's been tested and they've gone through the three phases, yes, I would take it, I'd encourage people to take it. Reporter: Biden was pressed on whether he'd mandate vaccines when they're available. It depends on the state of the nature of the vaccine, when it comes out, and how it's being distributed. That would depend. But I would think that we should be talking about, depending on the continuation of the spread of the virus, we should be thinking about making it mandatory. Reporter: Since the last time the two shared a stage -- Why wouldn't you answer that question? Because the question is -- Reporter: The president tested positive for covid, recovering quickly thanks to experimental treatments and has finally embraced being back on the campaign trail, with densely packed, mostly maskless, rallies. I feel so powerful, I'll walk into that audience. I'll walk in there, I'll kiss everyone in that audience. I'll kiss the guys and the beautiful women and the -- every, I'll just give you a big, fat kiss. Reporter: Tonight the president light on details about his covid battle. Did the doctors ever tell you that they saw pneumonia on your lung scans? No, but they said the lungs are, you know, a little bit different, a little bit, perhaps, infected. And -- Infected with? I don't know. I mean, I didn't do too much asking. Reporter: When challenged about the largely maskless event in the rose garden, the president again cast doubt on the effectiveness of masks in preventing infection. As far as the mask is concerned, I'm good with masks. I'm okay with masks. I tell people, wear masks. But just the other day they came out with a statement that 85% of the people that wear masks catch it. What? They didn't say that. I know that study -- That's what I heard. Reporter: Biden and his campaign have followed strict covid-19 protocols. How many of you have been unable to hug your grandkids? Reporter: With the pandemic weighing down on the economy, the candidates took aim at each other's tax plans. Companies are pouring into our nation because of the tax rate. And if Biden comes in and raises taxes on everybody, including middle income taxes, which he wants to do, you will blow this thing and you'll end up with a depression the likes of which you've never had. That's what's going to happen. You stated that anyone making less than $400,000 will not see one single penny of their taxes raised. That's right. You also state that you were going to eliminate the trump tax cuts. What is your plan for either extending the tax cuts for the middle class or creating a new plan that further reduces the I carry this card. Trump tax cuts, $1.3 trillion of the $2 trillion in tax cuts went to the top one-tenth of 1%. That's what I'm talking about eliminating, not all the tax cuts that are out there. Reporter: After months of calls for racial equity, Biden weighing in on what he will do for black Americans. Besides you ain't black, what do you have to say to young black voters who see voting for you as further participation in a system that continually fails to protect them? Well, I say, first of all, as my buddy John Lewis said, it's a sacred opportunity to right the vote, to make a difference, if young black women and men vote, you can determine the outcome of this election. Not a joke. You can do that. The next question is, am I worthy of your vote? Can I earn your vote? And the answer is, there's two things I think that I care and I've demonstrated I care about my whole career. One is, in addition to dealing with criminal justice system to make it fair and make it more decent, we have to be able to put black Americans in a position to be able to gain wealth, generate wealth. Reporter: At the last debate, the president was criticized for refusing to condemn white supremacists and militia groups. Who would you like me to condemn? Proud boys. Proud boys? Stand back and stand by. Reporter: Tonight he was pressed again. Are you listening? I didn't ask white supremacy -- Okay. What's your next question? Do you feel -- it feels sometimes you're hesitant to do so. Here we go again. Every time. In fact, when people came, I'm sure they'll ask you the white supremacy question. I denounce white supremacy. Reporter: Yet dodging when asked to disavoid the conspiracy group q-anon. I know nothing about q-anon. I just told you -- I know very little -- you told me, but what you tell me doesn't necessarily make it fact, I hate to say that. I know nothing about it. I do know they are very much against pedophilia. They fight it very hard. But I know nothing about -- They believe it is a satanic cult run by the deep states -- I'll tell you what I do know about. I know about antifa, I know about the radical left, I know how violent they are, how vicious they are, I know how they're burning down cities run by Democrats. Reporter: With all eyes this week on the supreme court confirmation hearing of judge Amy coney Barrett, the former vice president pushed once again on whether he'd expand the number of justices. I have not been a fan of court packing, because I think it just generates what will happen -- whoever wins, it just keeps moving in a way that is inconsistent with what is going to be manageable. You're still not a fan? Well, I'm not a fan. I didn't say -- it depends on how this turns out, not how he wins but how it's handled. You are open to expanding the court? I'm open to considering what happens from that point on. You know, you said so many times during the campaign, all through the course of your career, it's important to level. It is. But George, if I say -- no matter what answer I gave you, if I say it, that's the headline tomorrow. It won't be about what's going on now. The improper way they're proceeding. Don't voters have a right to know -- They do have a right to know where I stand, and they'll have a right to know where I stand before they vote. You'll come out with a clear position on election day? Yes, depending on how they handle this. Reporter: The president punting. Would you like to see roe versus wade overturned? I would like to see a brilliant jurist, a brilliant person, who has done this in great depth and has actually skirted this issue for a long time make a decision. And that's why I chose her. I think that she's going to make a great decision. I did thought tell her what decision to make, and I think it would be inappropriate to say right now. Because I don't want to do anything to influence her. I want her to get approved, and then I want her to go by the law. Reporter: Biden was forceful about what he saw were perceived conflicts of interest with trump and his justice department. The Biden justice department will do is let the department of justice be the department of justice. Let them make the judgments of who should be prosecuted. They are not my lawyers. They are not my personal lawyers. Do you remember any Republican president going out there or former democratic president, go find that kind of prosecutor. You ever hear that? Or, by the way, I'm being sued because a woman's accused me of rape, represent me. Represent me. Personally represent me in the state of New York on not allowing my tax returns. What's that all about? Reporter: When Biden's TV time was over, he stayed on, continuing to answer every question that came his way from the audience members. While nearly 18 million people have already cast their votes, one question remains. Was anybody's mind changed after listening tonight? Our thanks to juju.

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

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