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Photo: Morry Gash/AP

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 and Hans Nichols.

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Go deeper

Jan 26, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden on Trump's impeachment trial: "I think it has to happen"

President Biden told CNN Monday that he believes the impeachment trial of former President Trump "has to happen," but he does not think 17 Republicans will join Democrats to vote to convict.

Why it matters: Biden's comments are most concrete he has made about his views on Trump's second impeachment.

Updated 57 mins ago - Sports

The Olympic events to watch today

U.S. diver Krysten Palmer. Photo: Clive Rose/Getty Images

5 events to watch today...
  • 🏃 Track & Field: Watch the men’s 100m final at 8:50 a.m. ET on nbcolympics.com
  • 🏐 Men’s volleyball: USA plays Argentina in the group stage at 8:45 a.m. on NBC.
  • 🤸 Gymnastics event finals: Watch the replay of the men's floor exercise and pommel horse, as well as the women's vault and uneven bars starting at 9:30 p.m. on NBC.
  • 🤽Men's water polo: USA takes on Greece in group play at 10:30 p.m. ET on CNBC.
  • 🏊Women's springboard final: Watch the replay tonight on NBC.

In photos: Tokyo Olympics day 9 highlights

Team USA's Ryan Murphy, Zach Apple, Michael Andrew and Caeleb Dressel celebrate winning gold in the final of the men's 4x100m medley relay swimming event during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre in Tokyo on Aug. 1. Photo: Odd Andersen/AFP via Getty Images

Day nine of the Tokyo Olympic Games Sunday saw the final day of swimming competition end with a historic win for Team USA.

The big picture: The U.S. men's 4x100-meter medley relay team set a new record world as they won the final and Caeleb Dressel earned a fifth gold — becoming the fifth American to do so. Team USA's Bobby Finke won the 1,500-meter freestyle.