The final presidential debate took place last Thursday at Belmont University in Nashville, TN. While the tone was generally calmer than the first debate, tensions still rose on key issues. 

For the first time in history, microphones were muted while opponents were answering questions. As ABC News noted, “The Commission on Presidential Debates threatened in advance of the event Thursday night to cut off the microphone of any candidate trying to interrupt the other during this go-around.” 

Questions covered everything from COVID-19 to the economy, but the biggest claims were made on the topic of the environment. 

Fracking, fossil fuels and oil-drilling have been key topics during this election cycle, and they came to a head during the debate. In fact, the word “fracking” was repeated 15 times. 

President Donald Trump accused former Vice President Joe Biden of changing his stance on fracking, as Biden initially opposed it and then changed his tone while campaigning in PA. Meanwhile, Trump has been an unequivocal supporter. 

In the state of Pennsylvania, even many Democrats, whose party nationally includes vocal environmentalists who oppose fracking, support the industry, one example being Pennsylvania Rep. Conor Lamb, a Democrat. His March 2018 special election victory in a Republican-leaning district near Pittsburgh, where fracking is important to the local economy, was seen by many analysts a sign that Democrats might do well in the mid-term Congressional election later that year.

Many are predicting that Biden’s fluctuating stance on the subject may hurt him. Not only that, but Biden also said he would transition away from the oil industry. 

“Biden royally screwed up when he basically stated that he is going to phase out the oil industry,” Tom Stavitzski, a PA teacher, told Newsweek in an email. “I thought that statement was outrageous and will be very costly.”

When he affirmed this speculation, Trump capitalized on it. 

“Basically, what he is saying is he’s going to destroy the oil industry,” Trump said. “Will you remember that, Texas? Will you remember that, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma?”

These statements could have an impact in key battleground states. 

With national cases spiking, the moderator also asked about COVID-19.

Biden focused on Trump’s lack of strategy, claiming that “Anyone who’s responsible for that many deaths should not remain as president of the United States of America.” 

“We’re about to go into a dark winter,” Biden said.

Meanwhile, Trump stuck to his message, stating, “The cure can’t be worse than the problem.”

Trump said that the nation needed to continue opening the economy, adding, “We can’t close up our nation, or you’re not going to have a nation.”

“We closed up the greatest economy in the world in order to fight this horrible disease from China,” Trump said about his decision to close the border when the pandemic started. 

He also appealed to Americans on a more personal level. 

“I can tell you from personal experience, I was in the hospital, I had it,” he said. “I was in for a short period of time, and I got better very fast, or I wouldn’t be here tonight.”

At this point, more than 60 million pre-election votes have already been cast, and 33 states have reportedly passed their pre-election vote totals since 2016. Trump and Biden are still running neck-and-neck in a number of key states, and a boost on the margins due to this debate could be all that’s needed for a candidate to tip the scales in the direction of a victory.