The latest on the 2020 election

By Meg Wagner, Mike Hayes and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 10:05 PM ET, Wed September 30, 2020
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12:47 p.m. ET, September 30, 2020

Young voters say "Generation Z knows better" than to give up on election

From CNN's Rachel Janfaza

Young Americans told CNN they were disappointed but not surprised that the first presidential debate turned to chaos Tuesday.

While young voters were struck by President Donald Trump’s failure to condemn white supremacy, they say his rhetoric wasn’t shocking given his track record

“I expected nothing different,” Zyahna Bryant, 19-year-old community organizer and activist in Charlottesville, Virginia, said of Trump’s rhetoric Tuesday.

Bryant, a Black woman, was in Charlottesville during the white nationalist Unite the Right rally in 2017.

“I remember being out on August 12 in Charlottesville, and watching [Trump] speak on the TV immediately following the car attack in downtown. I remember him equating social justice activists to vile white supremacists and racists who took to the streets that day. I have no high expectations for this president. I never have,” she told CNN.

Still, she noted: “Nevertheless, we must continue to fight and organize in our communities, because we keep us safe.”

Bryant and a number of other young voters say that while the President intends to stoke fear and division, young people can’t shy away from what’s at stake in the 2020 election.

“This debate reminds me that Generation Z knows better. We know better, and therefore must expect better. We cannot be convinced that it is not important for us to show up, in all ways, to the polls, and in our communities. Our work is not done,” Bryant said.

Sanaa Abrar, a 29-year-old Pakistani immigrant and the advocacy director for United We Dream Action PAC, said that while Trump continues to “operate on an agenda of fear,” young and first time voters must stay engaged.

“We know what’s at stake. You know what your parents and families are going through in this Covid crisis. You know what’s at stake with climate change and immigrant rights. We’re fighting for those issues,” Abrar said.

Young voters on both the left and the right say they are committed to fighting for a brighter future.

According to Mike Brodo, 20 and a co-founder of gen z gop, an organization which seeks to provide a home for young Republicans who feel lost in the current political landscape, the debate set a “bad precedent for young voters looking to formulate a positive vision for the country’s future.”

“I hope Gen Z voters can cut through this noise, now and in the future,” Brodo told CNN. He added that “the lack of respect” at the debate is motivating him to remain involved.

Parker Stohlton, 23 and a member of College Republicans for Biden, says the debate encouraged him to keep fighting for Biden.

“I’m feeling motivated to keep fighting for Biden. Tonight, Trump displayed his incompetency as leader of the free world. I found it especially concerning that he didn’t condemn white supremacy, and that he continued to sow seeds of doubt in the democratic process. I’m fed up with his lies and lack of decency,” Stohlton said.

Across the board, young voters felt a lack of representation during Tuesday’s debate and would have liked to hear more about issues pertaining to young people. According to Pew Research, one in 10 eligible voters in the 2020 election is a member of Gen Z and one in three eligible voters is non white.

While many young people appreciated moderator Chris Wallace’s question about climate change and Biden’s response — during which he expressed his commitment to fighting climate change — young voters would have liked to hear more from the candidates about gun violence, affordable health care, access to affordable education and immigration.

“I was disappointed that once again, the young people were left unaddressed,” Mana Shooshtari, 20 and a field organizer with Grassroots Democrats HQ, said.

11:36 a.m. ET, September 30, 2020

What did you think about last night's debate?

From CNN's Melissa Mahtani

President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden faced off in a chaotic presidential debate last night filled with interruptions and insults. They were grilled on the Supreme Court, economy, coronavirus and other topics.

We want to hear your thoughts. Leave them below and we may use them in a CNN article.

11:11 a.m. ET, September 30, 2020

White House press secretary says Trump believes he won the debate

From CNN's Sam Fossum and Joe Johns

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany speaks during a news conference at the White House on September 24 in Washington, DC.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany speaks during a news conference at the White House on September 24 in Washington, DC. Patrick Semansky/AP

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said on Wednesday President Trump believes he won last night's chaotic debate, and that the President was "in very good spirits" last night. 

"Yes, he does, he was in very good spirits. He brought the fight that the American people wanted to see. The American people wanted to see the president question Joe Biden in a way that the media never does. He gets a pass," McEnany said in an interview on Fox Business. 

When asked about Trump's chaotic style and whether there will be any adjustments moving forward, McEnany hinted that it's possible and pointed to the second debate's different format. 

"One thing I'll note is that the next debate is a much different format. It's a townhall, he'll be talking to voters, so by nature it will be a different format, a different tactic," McEnany said, adding: "Because the President was on offense, the American voter left that debate with a distinct answer and look at this... candidate that they had not had previously." 

Asked about a potential criminal case following the New York Times bombshell report earlier this week on Trump's personal finances, she said it was up to the Justice Department but did not hold back from criticizing the newspaper. The New York Times obtained Trump's tax returns from someone who had legal access to them, per the paper.

"Look that's up to the DOJ as to whether they open an investigation, but we're very concerned when the private documents of the President of the United States or any American are leaked to a media outlet," McEnany said.  

Asked about the verdict from some commentators that Biden won the debate because he had no serious gaffes, she said: "I think no gaffes, that's a really subjective interpretation," before going on to attack Biden for his comments on Antifa. However, Biden last night was directly quoting Trump's own FBI director when he asserted that Antifa is an ideology, and not a formalized group.  

During Wednesday's interview, McEnany was not asked about Trump's refusal to directly condemn the Proud Boys when given a chance and his decision to instead tell the far-right group to “stand back and standby."

She did not stop to gaggle with reporters after her hit, but did say there would not be a briefing today. 

10:53 a.m. ET, September 30, 2020

Biden: Trump has "broken his promise" to "forgotten Americans he said he was going to fight for"

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event to launch a train campaign tour at Cleveland Amtrak Station September 30 in Cleveland, Ohio.
Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event to launch a train campaign tour at Cleveland Amtrak Station September 30 in Cleveland, Ohio. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden slammed Trump's approach to the economy, saying the President has "broken his promise" and "forgotten the forgotten Americans he said he was always going to fight for."

Biden spoke in Ohio before embarking on his campaign train tour across eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania that focuses on the economy and working families.

"In the end, his measure of economic health is the stock market. And in four years as President, he's broken his promise. He's forgotten the forgotten Americans he said he was always going to fight for. But I never will forget. I know the middle class and working people built this country, and I measure the economic success by what families are talking about around their kitchen tables this morning," he said.

Biden was born in Pennsylvania, in the deep blue city of Scranton. The commonwealth's 20 electoral votes went to Trump in 2016, but are in play this year, with Democrats hoping to win them over from the President.

10:50 a.m. ET, September 30, 2020

Biden reacts to debate: "Last night's debate...was supposed to be about you"

From CNN’s Sarah Mucha

Kicking off his train tour through Ohio and Pennsylvania in Cleveland, Ohio, Wednesday, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden provided his initial thoughts on last night's debate, arguing that the President does not care about Americans.

"Last night's debate ... was supposed to be about you," Biden began, continuing to lean into his Scranton versus Park Avenue message by saying that it was supposed to be about people in Youngstown and Claymont, Delaware, and "all the people who make a difference." 

He asked, "Does your President understand at all what you're going through?" 

Biden said that he thinks the President "looks down on us" and added, "He lies to you." 

Here are some key moments from from the off-the-rails first debate between Biden and Trump

10:42 a.m. ET, September 30, 2020

Biden says Trump is "too weak to beat the pandemic"

Pool
Pool

Speaking in Ohio this morning, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden criticized President Trump's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

"He's too weak to beat the pandemic," Biden said during his first speech since last night's presidential debate. "You're businesses are closed and schools aren't back to normal because Donald Trump hasn't done his job."

More than 200,000 Americans have died since the pandemic began.

Biden began a campaign trip across eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania today via train that focuses on the economy and working families.

Watch:

10:19 a.m. ET, September 30, 2020

White House spokesperson on Trump's Proud Boys comment: "I don't think there's anything to clarify"

From CNN's Sam Fossum

Alyssa Farah, White House director of strategic communications, listens during a news conference in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, D.C., on July 8.
Alyssa Farah, White House director of strategic communications, listens during a news conference in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, D.C., on July 8. Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images

White House communications director Alyssa Farah asserted Wednesday morning that President Donald Trump has condemned white supremacy "countless times," and that no clarification is needed on his remark last night when he told the far-right group Proud Boys to "stand back and stand by." 

"The President condemned White supremacy countless times," Farah said, going on to point to Trump's initial reaction to a question about white supremacy from moderator Chris Wallace.

At last night’s debate Trump initially said "sure" when asked to condemn white supremacists, but then proceeded to not condemn the Proud Boys when given a chance, instead telling the far-right group to “stand back and standby."

"I don't think that there's anything to clarify. He's told them to stand back," Farah continued, adding: "This President has surged federal resources when violent crime warrants it in cities. He's leading, he doesn't need any sort of vigilantism, that's never what we've called for."

Asked about criticism from one voter about Trump's preparation, Farah said: "I would respectfully disagree with that opinion. I think that the President had an outstanding command of the facts he's leading every day." 

She also hit Joe Biden for his comments on Antifa — even though the Democratic nominee was quoting Trump's own FBI director. She also claimed that the economy would have fared far worse under a Biden presidency during the pandemic.

9:46 a.m. ET, September 30, 2020

Nancy Pelosi says debate was a “political nervous breakdown”

From CNN's Haley Byrd

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi holds a press conference at the Capitol on September 24 in Washington, DC. 
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi holds a press conference at the Capitol on September 24 in Washington, DC.  Liz Lynch/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said President Donald Trump’s debate performance on Tuesday night was a “political nervous breakdown, a meltdown,” and an appeal to parts of his base. 

She said the President was “intimidating people” with his comments about the upcoming election.

“The integrity of our elections must be maintained,” Pelosi said in an interview on MSNBC's 'Morning Joe' on Wednesday.

She added that President Trump doesn’t respect the “guardrails” of the Constitution, and she prays that “Republicans will take back their party."

10:05 a.m. ET, September 30, 2020

Trump was like a “heckler at a ball game” during debate, Sen. Klobuchar says

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

CNN
CNN

Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar said Joe Biden “let Donald Trump show himself to America” in the first presidential debate.

“If anyone wanted to know what four more years of Donald Trump was going to be like, they saw it. They saw the bullying. He was not like a president on a debate stage; he was like a heckler at a ball game,” the former Democratic presidential candidate said.  

She also referenced the moment when Trump refused to condemn White supremacists.

“The fact that Donald Trump came to this debate with no plan and only bombast and anger and hate and, in a culminating moment, refused to condemn white supremacism, I think no one’s going to forget that,” she said on CNN’s “New Day.”

She also said Trump’s ballot fraud claims show he is “afraid.”

“He’s trying to undermine our actual election system and I’d say to people, don't take the bait. Go out and vote,” she said.

The second debate between Trump and Biden, scheduled for October 10, is set to be a town hall where both men take questions from the audience. The final presidential debate on October 22 is set to be a similar format to the first, and Klobuchar said she thinks Biden should definitely face Trump in that debate.  

“I don't think that Joe Biden should back down from a a challenge … I think you've got this duty to portray this guy for what he is,” she said. 

Watch: