Donald Trump vs Joe Biden policies: what are their views on Covid-19, healthcare and the economy?

Donald Trump has dubbed Joe Biden, the man hoping to succeed him in the White House, “the destroyer of American greatness”. 

For his part, Mr Biden has picked Kamala Harris to join him on the Democratic presidential ticket this November and he hopes the California senator offers the best chance of beating Mr Trump and Mike Pence on November 3. 

With the presidential debates over, and the race to the 2020 election in full swing, attention has turned to how the Democratic and Republican pairings match up.

Mr Biden and Ms Harris were formally nominated as the presidential and vice presidential candidates at the Democratic convention last month, while Mr Trump and Mr Pence accepted their nominations at the Republican convention.

Donald Trump and Joe Biden were supposed to go head-to-head in three debates, but Thursday’s event was the second and final meeting between the pair before election day on November 3.

Mr Trump refused to participate in the second event, planned for October 15, after it was announced the event would be held virtually.

“I’m not going to do a virtual debate,” Mr Trump told Fox News, calling the decision “ridiculous” moments after the Commission on Presidential Debates announced the changes.

Avoiding the disruptions that marred the first meeting, the October 22 debate featured a mute button which allowed each candidate to speak uninterrupted during their opening statements.

Read more: Who the final presidential debate?

What happened in the debates?

Convention speeches are one thing. But the real test of these two pairs was during the presidential debates, when the American public finally saw the political opponents face each other on the debate stage.

Mr Trump and Mr Biden went at each other hammer and tongs in the first of three debates on September 29, but who won the first election debate?

In a bad-tempered and at times chaotic debate, the candidates ripped chunks out of each other on their records and issues such as the economy and race.

Mr Trump was rebuked several times by Chris Wallace, the moderator, for speaking over his opponent. At one point, after incessant interruptions from the president, Mr Biden said: “Will you shut up, man?”

On the weekend of October 3-4, the Trump campaign announced something of a relaunch of their campaign after the turmoil of the president’s illness, using the banner “Operation MAGA”, which stands for Mr Trump’s campaign slogan – Make America Great Again.

Mike Pence, the US vice president, went head-to-head in the vice-presidential debate that took place on the night of October 7 with Kamala Harris, the Democratic presidential nominee, in Utah.

There were two more presidential debates scheduled but when it was  announced the October 15 debate would be held virtually because of Mr Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis the president refused to participate. 

“I’m not going to do a virtual debate,” Mr Trump told Fox News, calling the decision “ridiculous” moments after the Commission on Presidential Debates announced the changes.

The final presidential debate was held at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, on October 22. Donald Trump delivered a much less combative performance than his first meeting with Biden, as he repeatedly portrayed his rival Joe Biden as an establishment politician unable to bring about real change.

The debates were streamed by all major US networks, including ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News, CNN and MSNBC.

Read more: Who won the vice-presidential debate?

So how do the candidates match up? We analyse the strengths and weaknesses of each politician. 

Joe Biden 

Strengths: Mr Biden is a centrist Democrat who can appeal to former Obama voters who turned to Mr Trump in 2016 and polls show he is more trusted on issues such as handling the coronavirus than Mr Trump. Americans of all stripes say Mr Biden is the candidate who can unite the country at a time of major divisions. 

Weaknesses: Mr Biden’s age – he is 77 – has caused concern among voters who fear he may struggle to cope with the demands of the Oval Office. This concern has been exacerbated by his long track record of making gaffes. Republicans are poised to exploit these verbal trip-ups, while Mr Trump has already begun sharing clips of Mr Biden’s gaffes to question his mental acuity.

What does Biden stand for?

Mr Biden has spent almost five decades in politics and is using his long experience in Washington to portray himself as a steady hand able to calm a country in chaos. A key part of his campaign is appealing to reluctant voters who have a nostalgia for the Obama-era, regularly referencing his time in the administration and promising to re-enter many of the agreements formed during that time. Mr Biden has mentioned re-entering the Paris Climate Accord, the global climate agreement Mr Trump withdrew the US from, as well as rescinding the Republican’s signature tax cuts. 

What are his key policy promises? 

Health care

Mr Biden has made clear that health care remains a top priority for him. It’s an issue that is deeply personal for him; his first wife and young daughter were killed in a car crash in 1972 and his oldest son Beau Biden died of brain cancer in 2015. “I couldn’t imagine what it would have been like if we didn’t have the health care they needed immediately,” he said during the campaign. 

Mr Biden said he will expand the Affordable Care Act, the signature legislative achievement of the Obama administration which expanded health insurance to millions of Americans. Mr Biden proposes expanding the ACA and implementing a plan that will ensure “an estimated 97 per cent of Americans”. Mr Biden says he will achieve this by offering Americans the option to enrol in a public health insurance programme similar to Medicare, which offers coverage to the elderly. However, Mr Biden does not support the universal public health insurance plan backed by progressive Democrats like Bernie Sanders. 


Mr Biden has laid out an ambitious climate plan which includes overhauling the country’s energy industry to achieve 100 per cent emissions-free power by 2035. The plan includes a pledge to invest $2 trillion in clean-energy infrastructure if Mr Biden wins the White House in November, along with a promise to build 1.5 million new energy-efficient homes and social housing units. In a nod to liberal voters, who have been somewhat unenthusiastic about Mr Biden’s candidacy, the Democrat said the expansive climate plan will be funded by a mix of government funding and increasing the corporate income tax rate from 21 to 28 per cent to ask “the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share”.

Mr Biden has shied away from mentioning a ban on fossil fuels such as oil, coal and gas – a politically sensitive topic in battleground states like Pennsylvania and Michigan – instead focusing on incentives for car manufacturers to produce zero-emission electric vehicles. In a move that is unlikely to have pleased the US oil lobby, Mr Biden said in the second debate that he would “transition from the oil industry”. Mr Trump jumped on this as a blunder, arguing it will put off voters in Texas and Pennsylvania.

America and the world

A regular refrain of Mr Biden is his desire to restore America’s standing on the world stage. The Democrat has shown strong support for the country’s relationships with its allies, particularly the Nato alliance. He has also spoken of holding China accountable for unfair trade practices but suggested he would tackle this through an international effort rather than through trade wars. 

Tax plan

Mr Biden says he will raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans, which he defines as those with an income of more than $400,000 per year. He wants to impose a marginal tax rate increase – so the more a worker earns over that threshold, the more tax they must pay. Most of those affected are in the top 1-2 per cent of earners in the US. While lower-income Americans would not be taxed directly, critics of Mr Biden’s plan say workers will be forced to accept lower wages and lower investment returns because of the Democrat’s planned corporate tax rises, from 21 per cent to 29 per cent. Biden also wants capital gains and dividends to be taxed at income tax rates. 

Foreign policy

Mr Biden has criticised Mr Trump’s “America First” nationalism and the Democrat is much keener on building relationships with America’s allies. Mr Biden will look to repair some relationships, including with Nato and the World Health Organisation. He would also rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement. Mr Biden said he would enter into another international deal with Iran, which was agreed by President Obama and ripped up by Mr Trump. Despite pressure from the left of his party, Mr Biden is supporter of Israel. Mr Biden has also suggested he would push for new sanctions on the Russian regime and he has been critical of Brexit.

Read more: 2020 election polls tracker: who will win?

Donald Trump

Strengths: Mr Trump has unshakeable loyalty from a core base of supporters, with more than a third of the country consistently supporting him, and showed in 2016 he can come from behind in the polls to claim victory. Polls show Americans trust Mr Trump with the economy more than Mr Biden, a key issue for many voters. The president also enjoys the advantage of being the incumbent which gives him the opportunity to use the White House as a backdrop for major announcements in the coming weeks.

Weaknesses: Mr Trump’s great political strength – his ability to draw huge crowds to campaign rallies – has been hampered by lockdown restrictions because of the coronavirus. Amid criticism of his handling of the pandemic, Mr Trump has a challenge to hold onto older and suburban voters who have been hit hard by the virus. His recent coronavirus diagnosis could also sway voters.

What is Trump’s second term agenda? 

Mr Trump has laid out a second-term agenda that will focus on jobs, taxes and the economy if he is re-elected. Mr Trump has taken credit for the booming economy the US was enjoying before the coronavirus pandemic, and has vowed to rebuild it. The Trump campaign has also heavily promoted a “law and order” message in its policy proposals in response to the violence and protesting that has occured in US cities over the summer. Other promises in the 10-point agenda are a little more loosely worded, such as a pledge to “drain the swamp”.

What are his key policy promises?

Job creation

Mr Trump promises to revive America’s ailing economy with a huge job creation drive, vowing to create 10 million new jobs in 10 months and one million new small businesses. Mr Trump also promises to build on the tax cuts he introduced in his first term, including tax cuts and credits to entice companies to keep jobs in the US rather than overseas. Mr Trump said he will “enact fair trade deals that protect American jobs”, but makes little mention of how he sees his trade war with China progressing.

Eradicate Covid-19

Mr Trump has staked a lot on the hope of finding an effective vaccine for coronavirus in the coming months. The Trump administration has launched “Operation Warp Speed” to encourage the development and distribution of a successful vaccine. In his campaign agenda, Mr Trump has promised to deliver a Covid-19 vaccine by the end of the year and has made clear he will pursue an America-first approach to any successful vaccine developed in the US or overseas. Under the heading “eradicate covid-19”, the campaign also lists a promise to “return to normal in 2021”, as well as pledges to refill stock piles, ensure critical workers have the resources necessary and prepare for future pandemics. 

Law and order

Mr Trump has promised to “defend” America’s police forces in the wake of growing protests against instances of police brutality towards African Americans. Mr Trump has leaned heavily on a law and order message, using fear-based rhetoric to discuss the Black Lives Matter movement and other protests sweeping through US cities, and warning that America’s suburbs are under threat. His campaign promises to protect police funding and hire more officers, increase punishments for attacks on police, and take action against political protest movements like the anti-facist group Antifa. The law and order promises also includes tough action on illegal immigration and stronger requirements for legal immigrants.

Tax plan

Like Mr Biden, Mr Trump is also trying to woo Americans with his tax plans. The president wants to retain the 37 per cent income tax rate on high earners and has hinted at lowering the 22 per cent rate for middle earners to 15 per cent, though this has not been formalised by his campaign. Mr Trump has also expressed a desire to lower capital gains tax from 23.8 per cent to 15 per cent and said he wants to nudge down corporation tax from 21 to 20 per cent.

Read more: Donald Trump’s approval ratings

Mike Pence

Strengths: Mr Pence, a conservative Christian, proved crucial to Mr Trump’s efforts to win the backing of Evangelical Christian voters in 2016, a feat he hopes to repeat this November. Mr Pence has been a strong advocate for nominating conservative judges and prioritising religious freedom over the last four years, issues likely to secure the support of conservatives. 

Weaknesses: As the face of the White House coronavirus response, Mr Pence is inevitably tied to criticism of the government’s handling of the pandemic and the country’s huge death toll.

Kamala Harris

Strengths: Ms Harris is a skilled campaigner with the ability to energise crowds through her passionate stump speeches. Her centrist policies and record as a prosecutor make her difficult to paint as a radical Democrat who is weak on crime – the Trump campaign’s favoured line of attack. As a biracial woman, Ms Harris is well placed to enact the sweeping changes many Americans have called for in the wake of the summer’s racial inequality protests. 

Weaknesses: Ms Harris’ early demise in the Democratic presidential race suggests she lacks the ability to bring in big dollar donations. Ms Harris has flip-flopped on issues dear to the liberal wing of her party such a universal healthcare system and received an enthusiastic reception from young progressive voters whose support could prove crucial in November.

Read more: How Kamala Harris has hit back to sexist slurs

Read more: Who is Kamala Harris, Joe Biden’s VP choice?