Transcript for Who won the 1st presidential debate?
Well, it is hard to know where to start. I'm not sure how people are going to feel about that to be continued at the end. People have to make their own judgments about how the candidates handled themselves tonight. Who made the better case, who offered plans for the future, who told the truth and who deserves to be president. Those are all judgments that are going to be made over the next several days and weeks. But I have to speak personally here as somebody who has watched presidential debates for 40 years as somebody who has moderated presidential debates, somebody who has prepared candidates for presidential debates, someone who has covered presidential debates -- that was the worst presidential debate I have ever seen in my life. A lot more heat than light over some 98 minutes. I want to go to the room right now. Jon Karl, you were there in the room, you covered the president, your thoughts? George, the debate was a total mess. It was a mess of interruptions, petty insults. I was in touch with some people on the floor who described -- who told me they were stunned by what they were seeing transpire on that stage. Donald Trump came across like a bully, there was an avalanche of untruth statements that came out. Joe Biden did not have a particularly steady performance. I could say really, honestly, it looks like both men lost this debate and in that sense, the real loser is Donald Trump. As we said at the start, Donald Trump needed to change the dynamic of this race. He is the one that is losing. He is the one that needed to change the trajectory. He needed a big win and that did not happen tonight. Mary Bruce? Well, Joe Biden's campaign is feeling very good right now. They came into tonight with a goal not to get dragged into the mud with Donald Trump but to speak directly to the middle Eastern American people and the campaign aide tells me that when Joe Biden went around the president and stared into the camera and spoke to voters, directly about a vaccine, about the economy, covid, about election integrity, they say every single one of those moments, they were winning. George, this was just remarkable. When you take a step back and you think about the fact that in a normal debate, every -- if you were to call your opponent a clown, racist, the worst president ever, to tell him to shut up or to shush, that would be considered crossing a line, but here tonight, that was part of a concerted strategy by Joe Biden to try and show that he could keep his cool, actually. It's part of an effort by Joe Biden that he can be the adult in the room, to guide the country out of these really turbulent times. Over and over again, he simply refused to give credence to the president's attacks, even though, let's be honest, there were parts of that debate that were simply unwatchable because the two of them were just talking over and over each other. Here in the room, it was really astounding. And it was apparent, as you watched it, that the president was often turned to the former vice president, pointing his finger at time, speaking to him. Joe Biden staring down the camera, trying to speak to the American people, making his point. The Biden campaign says all you saw tonight from the president was chaos, what you saw from Joe Biden was stability, they say. Thank you, Mary Bruce. Chris Christie, was that the debate you prepared for? No. But what I'll tell you is that -- I listened to the commentary already and I think people are missing some things. First off, Rahm said earlier that it was the vice president's job tonight to reassure. I don't think that's a reassuring performance by the vice president tonight. He looked very shaky at many times. His numbers were way off. He would wander off in mid sentence and then used lots of name-calling a insulting language. That's not rising above it. I have to disagree with Mary. Or at least with what she's conveying from the Biden folks. And yeah, I think on the trump side, it was too hot. Listen, you come in, decide you want to be aggressive and that was the right thing to be aggressive, but that was too and so I think that what happens is, with all that heat, as you said before, you lose the light. That potentially can be fixed. Maybe, maybe not. We'll have to see. On the trump side. On the Biden side, I'd be very concerned that his problems can't be fixed because if you are not up to being able to stand up there for 90 minutes and be consistently coherent, people are going to wonder whether you're going to be able do that when you are sitting behind the desk in the oval office. Rahm Emanuel? I think Joe Biden did a smart strategy of a rope a dope, because in fact president looked totally out of control and Chris Wallace basically said that. And the president needed to change people's perception. He looked exactly like the bully that people have been exhausted by. I think the vice president steadied as the night went on. When he talked about covid, when he talked about health care. When he talked about -- and he looked right at the American people, said this is about your family and your direction. When he talked about the integrity of bringing people together. And also, when he rebutted him about his son, beau, not calling him a Patsy he was serving. There was moments, who wouldn't get rattled when somebody just screams at you all night? And Chris Wallace basically said it. Like, hold on here. There are rules here. And so, I think the president hurt himself by only having a fifth gear. There was no second year, there was no third gear. And I think given that, I think the vice president practiced a pretty good rope a dope David Muir, we're going to have to do it on "Gma" tomorrow, you'll have to do it on "World news tonight" tomorrow night. What is the lede of this debate? As we were going into this tonight, George, we were talking about the level of exhaustion in this country. We have to remember that the backdrop for this entire debate is this coronavirus pandemic, 200,000 American lives have been lost. The economy, millions on unemployment and people are exhausted. They want to know, when is this going to end? Who has a plan to help guide the way through? And you have to wonder if tonight did anything to further that argument or put people at home, and that's what we think about here as we do the news, did it put anyone at peace about the future of our country and the immediate months and years to come in how he navigate our way out of this moment? We talked about president trump, this was a unique opportunity for him to come in and say, here's what I will do over my next four years, I'm not sure we heard a lot of that tonight. Joe Biden had to come in, we said, no unforced errors, don't get pulled into the personal attacks. I think he was fairly steady in temperament and tone but I do wonder if people will be frustrated at home, no matter how difficult it was in those moments, that they didn't hear enough, really from either about their specific plans of guiding this nation forward. One thing that is getting a lot of notice, linsey Davis, online, the president refused to condemn white supremacists. He said he would, when he was asked, sure, I will, and he gave a call to action, saying stand back and stand by. That was something that really got my attention. And I was -- I can't say I was surprised, but it was really a moment that I think that people especially in the black community heard loud and clear. Got to take a quick break. We'll be right back. Ready to shine from the inside out? Try Nature's Bounty Hair, Skin and Nails gummies. The number one brand to support beautiful hair, glowing skin, and healthy nails. And try Advanced, now with two times more biotin. Back now after this first presidential debate. Want to go to Sara Fagan. You said there was -- that Joe Biden had a tougher job coming into the night. Is that the way you feel coming out of it? I think this was a total food fight.
This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.