And we’re off.
With just over a month to go it is, finally, starting to feel like an election campaign.
Last night, Donald Trump took on his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, in the first presidential debate in the race for the White House.
The 90-minute debate was, perhaps, a litmus test of what political discourse has become in the United States, and elsewhere, in recent years. Akin more to a slanging match than rational and informed argument, slurs from both sides appeared conveniently crafted to fit the limits of 280 characters, rather than to inform people about the issues.
The two candidates frequently talked over each other, with Trump accused of trampling on decorum and interrupting so often that Biden eventually snapped at him: “Will you shut up, man?”
The question is, who won?
It certainly wasn’t the US electorate, who failed to get answers – or even basic fact checking – on the issues that matter most.
Recent polls show that the economy is top of mind for American voters and that Trump edges Biden on that issue, but we got little detail on jobs and the recovery. Trump made his familiar argument about the need to reopen the country quickly, before reverting to what the BBC described as a “chaotic” debate that moderator Chris Wallace couldn’t control.
With weeks to go until election day on 3 November, Biden is currently polling ahead of the president in key battleground states, although his lead is narrowing. He leads in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where Trump won by the slimmest of margins in 2016 and the race is even closer in Arizona, a state that only one Democratic presidential candidate has won in the past 70 years.
Nationally, Biden appears at an advantage. Older, white voters in particular, a group that helped Trump to victory in 2016, have shown signs of disapproval towards the president’s handling of the pandemic, and they won’t have necessarily been reassured by last night’s performance.
Investors too are getting jittery as the answer to the most pressing question of the night – whether Trump will accept the results of the election even if he loses – was left unanswered, fuelling market volatility bets.
Ahead of the debate, one in ten American voters said they remained undecided. If they were hoping to be convinced otherwise by the two men seeking the highest office in the land during the debate, they may have been left disappointed. Whether they will be any more satisfied by the two further debates to come remains to be seen.