The 90-minute debate, moderated by NBC's Kristen Welker, took place at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, covered a wide range of topics, including Covid-19, race, immigration and climate change.
This live coverage has ended. Continue reading election news from October 23, 2020.
Read highlights, fact checks and takeaway below:
Fact check: Trump says 2.2 million people were projected to die from Covid-19
Trump, defending his administration's pandemic response, claimed Thursday that "2.2 million people — modeled out — were expected to die" from the coronavirus.
Trump has made this claim previously — that original projections for coronavirus deaths in America said the country would lose 2.2 million people to the virus.
This is misleading. Trump is referring to a model published on March 17 by Imperial College London, which did predict that 2.2 million people in America could die from the virus, but only if no mitigation efforts whatsoever were in place.
In late March, White House Coronavirus Task Force response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx told NBC's "Today" that the projection of 1.6 million to 2.2 million deaths referred to what could happen if America did "nothing" to stop the spread of the virus.
"If we do things together, well, almost perfectly, we could get in the range of 100,000 to 200,000 fatalities," Birx said at the time.
As of Thursday evening, there have been 223,262 deaths attributed to the virus in America, according to NBC News data.
First question on Covid-19
The candidates squared off on the pandemic to start off Thursday’s debate, with Trump saying that if he hadn’t acted as he did, way more people would have died, and Biden saying the president’s incompetence needlessly cost thousands of additional lives.
With cases and hospitalizations on the rise, Welker asked both candidates how they will fight the upcoming stage of the pandemic.
“As you know, 2.2 million people modeled out were expected to die,” Trump said. “We closed up the greatest economy in the world.”
The president said the vaccine will come soon. He did not elaborate on anything different he would do in combating the virus, though he did point to his recovery from Covid-19 as proof that conditions are improving.
“We rounding the corner,” Trump claimed. “It’s going away.”
Biden pointed to the 220,000 Americans who have died.
“Anyone who’s responsible for not taking control — in fact saying, 'I take no responsibility' — anyone who [has that] response to that many deaths should not remain president of the United States of America.”
Biden said Trump “still has no plan, no comprehensive plan.”
Biden added he would work toward national standards on reopening businesses and a ramping up the testing strategy.
“I will make sure we have a plan,” he said.
Welker fact-checks Trump in real time
Candidates arrive on stage. One in a mask, one without.
Debate commission co-chair goes over changes to final debate
Frank Fahrenkopf, the co-chair of the Commission on Presidential Debates, went over the rules of the debate ahead of the 9 p.m. start time, reminding participants that they agreed weeks ago that they would respect the two-minute response time allotted to each candidate per question before diving into a back-and-forth debate.
“Unfortunately, if you happened to watch the first debate, those rules were not necessarily followed," he said. "The commission felt that we could not put in a new rule, and what we thought we would do was put in a way to enforce what they had agreed to, the original rule: no interruption.”
Fahrenkopf explained that at the start of each of the six subject areas, the candidate who is not giving his two-minute opening response will have his mic muted. Once they have both delivered their 2-min opener, their mics will both be hot for debate.
Attacks, interruptions and topics: Follow along live
NBC News' Welker to moderate tonight's debate
Moderating Thursday's final debate is NBC News' Kristen Welker.
Welker has served as a White House correspondent for NBC News since 2011. Last November, she served as one of four moderators at the fifth Democratic primary debate.
In the lead-up to the debate, Trump and his allies have targeted Welker, as they did with the first debate's moderator, Fox News' Chris Wallace.
"Look at the bias, hatred and rudeness on behalf of 60 Minutes and CBS," Trump tweeted Thursday, complaining about his recent interview with CBS' Lesley Stahl. "Tonight’s anchor, Kristen Welker, is far worse!"
In a statement, NBC News President Noah Oppenheim said, "Kristin Welker is focused on delivering for the American people a substantive conversation about the issues that voters care about and she’s going to do everything in her power to make that happen."
Inside the debate hall: Lots of masks and some notable VIPs
The view from inside the debate hall: masks. Lots of them. We haven’t seen anyone without one, though, notably, the Trump family hasn’t arrived yet. They were the main ones defying the mask mandate at the Cleveland debate.
The president’s motorcade is set to arrive any minute, and Joe Biden is already here. Seats are marked off for some of those members of the first family — Melania, Eric and Ivanka Trump. The former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, is also here in the hall as are some former members of Congress: Democrat Lincoln Davis and Republican Jimmy Duncan Jr. among them.
The arena is bigger and less intimate than the room for the first debate in Cleveland, and in another contrast, people are freely mingling and chatting. The vibe is pretty low-key.
Pete Buttigieg fires back on Hunter Biden allegations on Fox News
Pete Buttigieg has made several viral appearances on Fox News in recent weeks as a Biden surrogate. On Thursday night, he appeared again and offered a retort to the accusations leveled against Hunter Biden.
"If they want to make this about the business deals of a government official, let's talk about the president of the United States having a secret Chinese bank account," Buttigieg said.
The Trump campaign had previously sought to push the accusation that Hunter Biden's relationships in the Ukraine were illegal, and has recently shifted its focus to China.
Buttigieg made the case that Trump's business relationships with China were more pressing to the public than Hunter Biden's.
"And they won't even tell us what bank it's with," Buttigieg said. "Does that bother Americans? I'm pretty sure it bothers Americans a lot more than what they're trying to whip up for the last 12 days of this election season."
Kid Rock makes an appearance at Thursday's debate
Kid Rock showed up at the debate tonight. Asked if he was supporting Trump's re-election, he told NBC News his presence would do his speaking for him.
"I think being here says it all, right?" he said. "Happy to be invited.”
The ponytailed-and-jumpsuited musician wasn't wearing a mask when he arrived at the debate venue and was later handed one by debate staffers.