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Finally, a real debate

A more disciplined President Trump held back from the rowdy interruptions at tonight's debate in Nashville, while making some assertions so outlandish that Joe Biden chuckled and even closed his eyes.

  • A Trump campaign adviser told Axios: "He finally listened." 

The result: A real debate.

  • With a firm moderator, NBC News' Kristen Welker — along with threats of mic cutoffs and advisers' pleas for Trump to cool it — voters finally heard clear contrasts.
  • Trump swung several times, but never quite landed a punch as he tried to connect Biden to a nebulous cloud of allegations about business dealings by his son Hunter.

Between the lines: Trump didn't focus on assuring women voters or seniors. But his economic argument could reassure some men in swing states.

  • Trump went back to 2016 mode — the outsider, chiding career politicians. But he's one of them now.

During an exchange about race in America, Trump said: "Nobody has done more for the black community than Donald Trump, with the exception of Abraham Lincoln — possible exception. ... I'm the least racist person in this room."

  • Biden retorted sarcastically, referring to Trump: "Abraham Lincoln here is one of the most racist presidents we’ve had in modern history."

Videos:

Reporting was contributed by Stef Kight, Alexi McCammond, David Nather, Hans Nichols, Margaret Talev and Alayna Treene.

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