The U.S. presidential campaign entered the stretch run Tuesday with the first of three debates between President Donald Trump and former vice president Joe Biden dissolving into little more than a 90-minute shouting match.
The highly anticipated event took place in Cleveland, one of the largest cities in the key battleground state of Ohio.
Trump has been polling behind Biden in many national polls. More importantly, he also trails in many of the battleground states where he won slim victories to capture the electoral college and the presidency in 2016 over Hillary Clinton.
The debate touched on a variety of issues, including the coronavirus, racial justice, job losses and the Supreme Court.
But more often than not questions and responses were overridden by Trump, who repeatedly ignored time limits and talked continuously during questions from moderator Chris Wallace and responses by Biden. On more than one occasion Wallace said to the president "The country would be better served with fewer interruptions." Trump countered that "I guess I'm debating you now."
Biden, who referred to Trump as a "clown" on more than one occasion, put it more bluntly, saying to the president at one point, "Will you shut up, man?"
But the lack of a kill-switch for the candidate's microphones meant Trump was free to mutter asides into his microphone, with catcalls about the "radical left,""Pocahontas" and repeated references to Biden's son's financial dealings.
That prompted Biden to retort that "We could talk about his family all night."
Trump claimed that he pays millions of dollars in income taxes, notwithstanding a New York Times report that he paid only $750 a year in the first two years of his presidency.
"Show us," Biden repeatedly said to Trump, who has refused to release his tax returns despite having promised to in the early stages of his first campaign.
Biden released his tax returns Tuesday, showing he paid $300,000 in income tax last year.
Late in the debate, the discussion turned to domestic extremism. When asked if he would condemn white supremacy, Trump declined, saying instead "Proud Boys, stand back and stand by."
While Trump's aggressive approach is certain to appeal to his hardcore base, it remains to be seen whether it will help him win.
The election is likely to turn on the decisions of women voters who picked Trump over Clinton in 2016, but who since have become disenchanted with the frequently boorish and combative president.
Two more presidential debates are scheduled in October.