The dueling town halls that aired on separate broadcast networks Thursday night were a microcosm of the parallel universes in which President Trump and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. are running their campaigns.
The forums replaced what was to be the second debate between the two candidates, after Mr. Trump rejected the decision by the Commission on Presidential Debates to hold the debate virtually because of Mr. Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis.
Mr. Trump, who was interviewed by Savannah Guthrie on NBC before turning to audience questions in Miami, grew angry and defensive almost at the outset, as she challenged him for spreading falsehoods, confronted him about his openness to QAnon conspiracy theorists and coaxed from him that he couldn’t say for sure whether he had been tested for the coronavirus before his first debate with Mr. Biden. Mr. Trump was alternatively hostile and derisive to Ms. Guthrie, a popular “Today” show co-anchor.
Mr. Trump also all but confirmed that he owed about $400 million to creditors, as reported in a New York Times investigation about his taxes. “What I’m saying is that it’s a tiny percentage of my net worth,” Mr. Trump said when Ms. Guthrie pressed him on the specific dollar amount cited in the report.
Over on ABC News, at a very different octane and a very different volume, Mr. Biden answered policy questions from George Stephanopoulos. He also said he wanted proof that Mr. Trump had taken a coronavirus test before their next and last scheduled debate, on Oct. 22.
Mr. Biden’s outing was not completely easy. He again dodged a question on expanding the Supreme Court if he gets elected, though he did say, that he would offer an answer before Election Day but wanted to see how the nomination process for Judge Amy Coney Barrett plays out first.
Mr. Biden also made some news, saying that his support of the 1994 crime bill — which has been blamed for the large-scale incarceration of Black people — was a “mistake,” adding that parts of it had not been carried out properly by states.
Mr. Trump did settle into a rhythm when the audience questions began, and he engaged with some of the voters on policy questions like corporate taxes. Still, at the end of the day, the president may have been better off with a virtual debate after all.
In their televised town halls on Thursday night, President Trump continued his pattern of exaggerated, misleading and false statements on many topics, while former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. stuck closer to the facts.
Mr. Trump continued to state without any factual basis that the coronavirus pandemic will end soon, and repeated his false statements that most people who wear masks get sick. He also dodged repeated questions about whether he had a negative coronavirus test immediately before the first presidential debate.
The president’s characterizations of the economy’s performance under his administration were inflated, and he again claimed to have done more for African-Americans than any of his predecessors except for Lincoln, an assertion that historians say is not accurate.
Mr. Biden got his numbers wrong on troop levels in Afghanistan relative to when he left office four years ago and mischaracterized an element of the Green New Deal, but generally avoided clear misstatements.
A team of journalists from The New York Times fact-checked both candidates in their separate appearances, providing context and analysis.
Democratic candidates in competitive Senate races received another surge in donations over the last few months, with some breaking fund-raising records in their states and many entering the final weeks of the campaign with significant stores of cash, according to new quarterly filings with election authorities this week.
ActBlue, the central platform for donations to Democratic candidates and causes, announced that from July 1 to Sept. 30, it had processed $1.5 billion in contributions — an amount roughly equal to what the site raised during the entire 2018 election cycle, and one far exceeding the $623.5 million that the equivalent Republican platform, WinRed, took in during the quarter.
Mark Kelly, the Democratic Senate candidate in Arizona, was among those who reported raising another enormous sum. Mr. Kelly’s campaign took in more than $38.7 million in those three months, and polls in the state show him with a widening advantage over the Republican incumbent, Senator Martha McSally. His campaign indicated that it had entered October with $18.8 million in cash on hand.
Senator McSally’s campaign reported raising $22.6 million in the period, with nearly $12.2 million in the bank.
In the Kentucky Senate race, the Democratic candidate, Amy McGrath, raised $36.9 million in the quarter. Her campaign, seeking to unseat Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, reported having nearly $20 million in cash on hand. Senator McConnell’s campaign raised less than half of that, $15.8 million, and reported $13.9 million in cash on hand.
In Maine, the Democratic challenger, Sara Gideon, took in $39.4 million in her effort to unseat Senator Susan Collins, the Republican incumbent, whose campaign raised $8.3 million. Ms. Gideon reported $22.7 million in cash on hand, compared with nearly $6.6 million for Senator Collins, who received an endorsement from former President George W. Bush in August.
Jaime Harrison, the Democrat challenging Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, shattered the record for Senate campaign fund-raising in a quarter, taking in more than $57 million in the period in question. Mr. Harrison’s campaign reported having nearly $8 million in cash at the start of the month.
Senator Graham’s campaign reported having raised $28.5 million over the same time. As he leads slightly in polling in South Carolina, and as his leadership of the Senate Judiciary Committee has drawn particular attention in his push to confirm President Trump’s third Supreme Court nominee, his campaign indicated that it had nearly $14.8 million in cash on hand.
On Thursday, the internet felt compelled to weigh in on the stark difference in tone between the two presidential forums, Savannah Guthrie’s performance moderating the discussion with President Trump on NBC, and other assorted Easter eggs that surfaced during all of the questions and answers.
Here’s a quick look at what the online world deemed important.
A jarring split screen
NBC and ABC, the television networks broadcasting the events, carried them both at 8 p.m. Eastern. So viewers were left with a choice: Watch one candidate exclusively, or flip back and forth?
Among those who periodically switched between the two broadcasts, a consensus emerged: The difference in tone was jarring.
The view of Trump
Mr. Trump’s detractors found his loud voice, frequent interjections and rhetorical meandering to be overwhelming and incoherent.
The view of Biden
At times, Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s penchant for long-winded responses and deep policy dives left the voters who posed questions to him appearing perplexed, a point quickly noted by pundits.
Meanwhile, at Biden town hall, hard to tell if the voter was glazing over or impressed with a very long answer by Biden. Which is classic Biden.
— Lisa Desjardins (@LisaDNews) October 16, 2020
Mercedes Schlapp, a senior adviser for the Trump campaign, echoed a criticism from the right about Mr. Biden’s more mellow town hall, essentially arguing that the moderator, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, and the voters posing the questions were being too soft on the former vice president.
But her particular assertion that Mr. Biden’s town hall felt “like I am watching an episode of Mister Rodgers Neighborhood” was quickly turned into its own social media moment, as people pointed out that, in fact, most people liked Fred Rogers, and that Mr. Rogers was known for preaching kindness on his children’s show.
There was also much discussion of Ms. Guthrie, who questioned the president bluntly on his coronavirus diagnosis, his views on white supremacists, the false QAnon conspiracy theory and his taxes.
Some praised her for pressing Mr. Trump on issues he has tried to evade. Others criticized her style, sometimes in pejorative or misogynistic terms, as overly aggressive and partisan.
At one point, Ms. Guthrie insisted that Mr. Trump explain why he had retweeted a conspiracy theory about Mr. Biden.
“I don’t get that,” she said. “You’re the president. You’re not, like, someone’s crazy uncle who can retweet whatever.”
That comment was widely transcribed and reposted. And it did not take long for social media users to remember that Mr. Trump does have one highly visible niece.
And finally, no roundup of the night’s internet moments would be complete if we did not include the video of one voter’s unprompted appraisal of the commander in chief.
The intelligence agencies warned the White House late last year that Russian intelligence officers were using President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani as a conduit for disinformation aimed at undermining Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s presidential run, according to four current and former American officials.
The agencies imparted the warning months before disclosing publicly in August that Moscow was trying to interfere in the election by taking aim at Mr. Biden’s campaign, the officials said. Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani have promoted unsubstantiated claims about Mr. Biden that have aligned with Russian disinformation efforts, and Mr. Giuliani has met with a Ukrainian lawmaker whom American officials believe is a Russian agent.
Robert C. O’Brien, the national security adviser, presented the warning about Mr. Giuliani to Mr. Trump in December. Two former officials gave conflicting accounts about its nature. One said the report was presented to Mr. Trump as unverified and vague, but another said the intelligence agencies had developed solid and credible information that Mr. Giuliani was being “worked over” by Russian operatives.
Mr. Trump shrugged it off, officials said, but the first former official cautioned that his reaction could have been colored in part by other information given to him not long before that appeared to back some of Mr. Giuliani’s claims about Ukraine. The specifics of that material were unclear.
Mr. Giuliani did not return requests for comment. The Washington Post reported the intelligence agencies’ warning to the White House earlier on Thursday.
Senator Susan Collins of Maine, the last New England Republican in Congress, clashed on Thursday with her Democratic opponent Sara Gideon at a debate that focused on the pandemic, health care and reforming the federal judiciary.
Ms. Collins, who is seeking a fifth term in the Senate, and Ms. Gideon, the speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, are locked in one of the toughest races in the country, with the potential to flip the Senate hanging in the balance.
The nonpartisan Cook Political Report has rated the Maine Senate race a tossup, but several polls have found Ms. Collins trailing Ms. Gideon by a narrow margin.
The ongoing Republican effort to reshape the federal judiciary — highlighted by the party’s race to confirm President Trump’s nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court — has long overshadowed the race. Ms. Collins, who faced a backlash for her vote to confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the nation’s highest court in 2018, again said that she would not support Judge Barrett’s nomination because of the proximity to the November election.
“It’s clearly not a political calculation since it does not make a lot of people happy,” Ms. Collins said. “It’s a matter of principle, it’s a matter of fairness. In a democracy, we should play by the same rules and the fact is that there has not been a confirmation of a Supreme Court justice in a presidential election year since 1932.”
Ms. Gideon, who does not support adding justices to the Supreme Court or imposing term limits, said she would support returning a 60-vote threshold, known as the filibuster, for judicial nominees as a way to ensure an independent judiciary. (Both parties have chipped away at the filibuster for nominations as a way to overcome partisan opposition.) “I think we should go back to having a filibuster in place for judicial nominees,” she said.
The two women also sparred over their health care proposals, in part because oral arguments in a case that could result in the court overturning the Affordable Care Act are set to begin early next month.
Ms. Gideon also repeatedly tried to press Ms. Collins on whether she would vote for President Trump, a question that the senator has continuously dodged.
In response to Ms. Gideon’s charge that Ms. Collins had failed to secure additional pandemic relief after Congress approved nearly $3 trillion of help this spring, Ms. Collins said she expected to vote to advance a targeted relief bill in the Senate and potentially another bill reviving a federal loan program for small businesses. She accused Ms. Gideon of failing to provide significant state relief after adjourning the state legislature in March.
The two independent candidates at the debate, Lisa Savage and Max Linn, sought to differentiate themselves from Ms. Collins and Ms. Gideon, particularly because Maine allows for ranked choice voting.
With less than three weeks to go before a pandemic-era election that is being conducted mainly by mail, Democrats in New Jersey are returning ballots at rates that outpace Republicans in some of the state’s most conservative strongholds.
In the rural north, on the Jersey Shore and in horse country, Democrats are beating Republicans to the mailbox — and the drop box — in an election where every voter was mailed a paper ballot to turn in by Nov. 3.
In Ocean County, home to more Republicans than any other part of the state, nearly 39 percent of registered Democrats had voted as of Wednesday, compared with 25 percent of Republicans, county records show. Rural Sussex County had a nearly identical split: More than 39 percent of Democrats had returned ballots by Wednesday, compared with 24 percent of Republicans.
While many states have seen a surge in mail-in voting, New Jersey is one of only four states where the rate of return has already eclipsed 25 percent of the state’s total turnout four years ago.
Pollsters, lawmakers and campaign consultants see it as a sign of intensity among Democrats eager to show their displeasure with a polarizing president and a measure of distrust among Republicans toward mail voting — a method President Trump has attacked, without evidence, as being ripe for fraud.
Republican leaders say they expect a surge of in-person ballot delivery closer to Election Day.
“They’re very suspicious of the mail,” said State Senator Joseph Pennacchio, a Republican chairman of the president’s re-election campaign in New Jersey who is recommending voters use drop boxes. “If you had a $100 bill, would you trust putting $100 in the mail? Of course not.”
There are 18 days until Election Day. Here are the schedules of the presidential and vice-presidential candidates for Friday, Oct. 16. All times are Eastern time.
1:30 p.m.: Speaks about protecting older Americans in Fort Meyers, Fla.
4 p.m.: Holds a rally in Ocala, Fla.
7 p.m.: Holds a rally in Macon, Ga.
Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.
2:30 p.m.: Speaks in Southfield, Mich, on affordable health care.
4:30 p.m.: Meets virtually with faith leaders.
6:30 p.m.: Appears at a voter mobilization event in Detroit, Mich.
Vice President Mike Pence
1:30 p.m.: Delivers remarks at a campaign event in Selma, N.C.
Senator Kamala Harris
Participates in a virtual event on finance; time T.B.D.