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Trump, Biden discussing climate solutions at debate ‘a step forward’: policy analyst

Yahoo Finance’s Alexis Christoforous and Brian Sozzi speak with Jason Grumet, president of the Bipartisan Policy Center, about the takeaways from the final presidential debate.

Video Transcript

BRIAN SOZZI: President Trump and former Vice President Biden are heading back out on the campaign trail today after last night's spirited debate in Nashville. They clashed a little more politely over a range of topics from health care to stimulus to dealing with racism.

DONALD TRUMP: I am the least racist person. I can't even see the audience, because it's so dark, but I don't care who's in the audience. I'm the least racist person in this room.

KRISTEN WELKER: OK, Vice President Biden, let me ask you very quickly, and then I have a follow up question for you.

JOE BIDEN: Abraham Lincoln here is one of the most racist presidents we've had in modern history. He pours fuel on every single racist fire, every single one.

DONALD TRUMP: Jason Grumet is president of the Bipartisan Policy Center, and he joins us now. Jason, not a very bipartisan moment there. What are some of your takeaways?

JASON GRUMET: Let's look at a few things, and good to be with you guys again. We're so desperate for some version of normalcy that we're basically describing the second ugliest debate in American history as if it was some moment of kind of statesmanship, right? So this was better, mostly because of, you know, Kristen Welker muted the two candidates when the others were talking, kind of a sad reality. But I think, you know, both President Trump and former Vice President Biden kind of brought a couple of key things forward.

You know, President Trump was really focused on trying to, again, kind of paint himself as the outsider, which is tricky for a sitting president, but you know, talking about Biden having been there for eight years, never getting anything done, the tremendous number of arguments that Biden was corrupt or had committed criminal acts. And then President Trump also, you know, kind of leaned in on the traditional like, you know, Biden's a socialist, he'll destroy the economy. You know, Biden conversely had his own two themes. It was health care, combination of the kind of condemnation of the COVID reaction and then also the Affordable Care Act, which I note he started calling Biden care, which I think is a very interesting moment for the kind of ascension of his own narrative.

And then you know, what the vice president I think did the best was to really say, look, you know, I'm going to be everybody's president. The country's got to come back together. I think his strongest moment was probably his last 60 seconds where he really leaned into this idea when you compare his kind of, you know, closing argument to President Trump's, it really kind of I think explained where the country is.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: You know, one moment that stood out to me was when the two went at it on stimulus, and Trump was very quick to call out Nancy Pelosi, blaming no new stimulus deal on her. Meanwhile, you've got Trump willing to push this $2 trillion plan, but even people within his own party say it's too big, and they don't want to vote for it. How do you think voters are going to view no stimulus plan? What do you think the message was last night for them?

JASON GRUMET: So, you know, I think the message reinforces kind of the unfortunately kind of accurate caricature that Congress is just out of touch and not able to really engage the interests of the American people. I think Vice President Biden kind of honed in on that, and generally, dysfunction counts against the sitting president. I thought there was also a very interesting moment where, in addition to trying to blame Speaker Pelosi, which is the tricky case to make, the president said very clearly if there is a deal, Republicans will vote for it.

You know, he didn't make no bones about the fact that he was going to just roll Mitch McConnell, and that would be a very, very interesting moment, because I think, you know, Senator McConnell has also been quite clear that he does not intend to move that [INAUDIBLE] forwards. So we would see kind of who is one of the Republican Party in these last moments of the president's first term. I guess the last thing I would say is if McConnell says, nuh-uh, that means McConnell probably doesn't think the president's going to get a second term.

BRIAN SOZZI: Jason, how important was it towards the end that Joe Biden's comments on the oil industry?

JASON GRUMET: So, you know, this was probably kind of the most substantively consequential part of the debate, and it wasn't just kind of the oil industry, but it was kind of energy and climate policy. I will just note that they didn't debate climate science, so that's exceptional. We're not fighting about the solutions, which is a step forward. You know, the vice president really tried to make the case for this transition. He used different dates at different times, but this kind of transitioned towards clean energy.

And again, you know, knowing something about energy policy, it's like I can kind of see what they're-- I can remember the briefing he must have gotten and what he was trying to kind of put together, but he was trying to make the case that we would be moving away from oil and gas production. His plan says, you know, over the next 30 years towards clean energy. The president clearly seized on that moment and thought it kind of reinforced the message of a kind of anti-economy, anti-business vice president.

The only other thing I'll note which I just found fascinating, President Trump described wind power accurately as being intermittent. Where'd that come from? Like, if you look at the rest of the debate it was just this kind of hot mess of accusations, but somewhere, you know, the intermittency of wind power, which he's absolutely correct about, kind of stuck. I think that you're actually-- for the people really paying attention, the fact that Vice President Biden is saying I do not plan to end fracking, I think actually that is providing more comfort to the energy industry than probably anything that was said last night.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Jason, before we let you go, anything you heard on health care last night that gives voters any kind of clarity? Did we hear more about an actual plan from President Trump? We know he wants to repeal Obamacare. That's before the Supreme Court now, but what's he going to replace it with? Did you hear anything last night?

JASON GRUMET: So, you know, look, you guys have been living in the same country I've been for the last almost four years. The president has never articulated an actual replacement strategy. I do think it's interesting that they're trying to get credit for running Obamacare better while trying to repeal it. You know, I kind of go back to the vice president being very strong in saying you're running against Joe Biden, really differentiating himself from Sanders and Warren and others, over the question about whether he would support kind of a Medicare for all.

And again, you know, I've mentioned this, but I'll just kind of say it again. Like, it's the first time I've ever heard him invoke Bidencare. You know, that really felt to me like an effort to kind of turn the corner in his imagination of moving from, you know, vice president to president, and obviously, we will know sometime in November if that comes to pass.