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Published on September 30, 2020 5:55 AM

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Who won the presidential debate?
Donald Trump and Joe Biden have gone head-to-head in Cleveland, Ohio in the first of three televised debates ahead of the most contentious election in modern US history. But who won? Here, The Independent's US team give their instant reactions:

John Bennett, Washington Bureau Chief

Donald Trump likely amazed his conservative base, but few others. I had Joe Biden on my scorecard by a comfortable margin. He looked and sounded more presidential, while the incumbent bickered with his foe and moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News. Mr Trump even refused when pinned down to condemn white supremacist groups, especially the Proud Boys. The president refused, merely saying to the Proud boys: "Stand back and stand by."

Mr Biden repeatedly told the sitting president of the United States to "shut up" and "be quiet," calling him a "clown" on national television. Mr Trump yelled over the former VP all night, growing red-faced early on. He uttered false statements and offered very little in terms of a second-term vision. The former vice president appeared to do everything he intended to as he talked healthcare and coronavirus, trying to target white suburban women who supported Mr Trump in 2016 but broke for Democratic congressional candidates two years later. Winner: Biden.

Score: Trump 50 - 50 Biden.

Polls suggested just 14 per cent of voters were undecided going into Tuesday's debate. Would any of those tuning in have been particularly impressed by what they watched this evening? Probably not.

Donald Trump had gone into the debate with a plan to aggressively attack Joe Biden, accuse him of being a radical, and try to unsettle him with accusations about his family.

On each count, he did so. But the president did very little to try and expand his appeal to a wider coalition. The Donald Trump who showed up to deliver a noisy, raucous performance was precisely the same man we've watched since he entered the race back in the summer of 2015.

Joe Biden's plan was to try and ignore those attacks, to exude confidence and calm, and to highlight the failings of his opponent, most importantly on the 200,000 deaths from the coronavirus pandemic that many have laid at the president's feet.

Mr Biden was certainly more calm, especially when compared to Mr Trump. But it took him a long time to warm up.