The same allegations were slung around but just weren’t shouted this time.
The ground covered was familiar but the final US presidential election debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden was an actual discussion this time around.
Trump’s big claims versus Biden’s folksy phrases were on display once more.
The US President’s main line of attack is to allege the Biden family is corrupt. Trump’s performance was being hailed as one of his best, which says a lot as it was far from spectacular.
However, the President was dramatically different from his previous frenzied effort and did manage to land some punches.
Biden will once again be happy not to have messed up, with no major gaffes and a steady showing on the day-to-day issues.
The best accolade you can offer to this final direct interaction between the two candidates for leader of the free world is that it was more dignified than what went before.
Nonetheless, the mediocrity on offer to the voters from both Republican and Democrat candidates was the overwhelming sense to emerge from this debate.
The two elderly white guys put in better performances, but this election is likely to herald a desire for younger and more vibrant candidates in future.
The discussion was more policy-focused, without necessarily getting into the detail we are used to on this side of the Atlantic.
The debate didn’t offer any gamechanger to the voter with the election just 11 days away.
46 million people have already voted in huge early turnouts by postal ballot, with another 100 million votes on the way.
The Trump campaign will feel the debate opens opportunities to go on the attack, but it seems too little, too late.
Still, at this point four years ago, Hillary Clinton was home and hosed, so there’s a lot of time for something dramatic to happen.
After the shout-fest of the first debate, firm measures were taken this time out to box off the interruptions. To stop the debate degenerating into a pointless interruption-filled interaction, the organisers brought in a mute button at the Belmont University in Nashville, Tennesse.
Each candidate had his microphone muted during the two minutes his opponent was speaking uninterrupted at the beginning of each segment. The debates commission said the move was necessary to allow for clearer discussion, after a chaotic and unwatchable first debate that was filled with crosstalk.
It worked as both candidates operated within the spirit of the law.
Trump was also advised to tone it down and interrupt Biden less this time.
Trump ‘only’ interrupted Biden 25 times on this occasion and Biden interrupted Trump 12 times, but this was down from the 75 butt ins during the first debate.
Hunting Hunter and Rudy rumours
Biden’s campaign anticipated that Trump would level personal attacks on Biden’s family, particularly with questions about the business dealings of his son, Hunter.
Trump repeatedly alleged Biden was corrupt.
“His son, his brother and his other brother are making money. They are like a vaccum cleaner, sucking in money,” Trump thundered.
Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer, has been central to the latest round of attacks on Hunter through the release of emails allegedly coming from Hunter’s laptop, which suggest evidence of questionable payments.
Giuliani is also in the news because he is featuring in the new Borat movie, caught in a compromising position with an actress.
Biden hit back: “We are in a situation where we have foreign countries trying to interfere in the outcome of our election. His own national security adviser told him that what's happening with this buddy - I shouldn't, I will - his buddy Rudy Giuliani, he is being used a Russian pawn.”
On his own finances, Trump keeps claiming his accountant won’t let him release his tax details as he is being audited. Go figure.
Race on race
Trump’s ability to talk himself up went stratospheric when it came to race.
He claimed nobody has done more for the black community than him “with the exception of Abraham Lincoln” and that he was “the least racist person in this room”.
Trump also attacked Biden’s record during his 47 years in politics and said he was “all talk and no action”.
“Don’t give me this stuff about how you’re an innocent baby. They’re calling you a corrupt politician,” he said.
Biden obviously pointed to Trump’s highly divisive period in office, where race relations have so firmly come to the fore of the debate in US politics during his term in office. He followed up with one of his best soundbites.
"Abraham Lincoln here is one of the most racist presidents in American history. He pours fuel in every fire. Come on, this guy has a dog whistle as big as a foghorn,” he added.
In between debates, Trump had his own Covid-19 infection and admission to hospital. The handling of the coronavirus crisis was again a key element of the debate.
Biden repeatedly went after Trump’s failings in the handling of the crisis, with the President retorting that he was taking action while his opponent was dithering.
Entering the final stretch of the election campaign, the Washington Post said Trump has been making more than 50 false or misleading claims a day, saying its Fact Checker team cannot keep up.
Trump once again touted a vaccine he said would be ready "in weeks" and claimed he was now “immune” as he endorsed the power of the new drugs to treat the disease.
Trump again appeared to lack empathy towards the suffering of people.
Biden also sought to be more unifying in his approach.
“I don't see it as blue states and red states like he does. It's the United States. They're all American."
On this occasion, family members in the audience had to wear masks – a reaction to the Trumps not wearing face coverings in the first debate. The audience also had to follow social distancing requirements, with several seats intentionally left empty.
The respective partners colour-coordinated their masks with their outfits. First Lady Melania Trump wore a black mask to match her frock and shoe, while Dr Jill Biden had a floral facemask matching her dress.
Trump, Biden and moderator Kristen Welker did not wear masks and were set up to be more than 12 feet apart from each other. The perspex screens were also removed from the stage.
Trump will latch on to Biden’s policies on the environment. Biden is falsely denying he said he wanted to shut down fracking.
On climate change, Biden has now flagged he wants to move the United States from being dependent on oil.
A threat to the oil industry tends to set off alarms across a country, which does not have a terribly mature view on fossil fuels.
Expect the remaining days to feature plenty of discussion about America’s energy future.
The swing state of Pennsylvania is a battleground on this front.
Biden’s campaign was having to clarify his remarks after the debate, so clearly there’s an opportunity there for Trump to create doubts.
However, Trump has no knock-out blow on Biden so the course of the election will not hinge on this issue.
The referee wins
Kristen Welker managed to restore confidence in the role of moderators. After Fox News host Chris Wallace lost complete control of the contentious first debate, NBC's Welker had a far better night.
On previous occasions, Trump lodged attacks at Welker, calling her a “radical Democrat” and questioning her objectivity. During this debate, he paused to praise her performance.
Welker at 44 was the youngest person to moderate a presidential or vice-presidential debate during this election cycle by more than 20 years. She was also the first Black woman to moderate a presidential debate since Carole Simpson in 1992.
The White House correspondent for NBC News was no doubt helped by the mute button and the fallout from the first debate, but her handling of the debate was still fair and commanding.
She afforded the candidates the opportunity to come back briefly, while keeping the debate flowing.