To Trump critics, the event highlighted his empathy gap in an election year wracked by health and economic crises weighing down American families. Trump is already hamstrung by not being able to host as many mega-rallies given the risks of a pandemic, so now he and his aides have turned to smaller, tamer events like Tuesday night’s town hall and roundtables with supporters, Latinos or small business owners. By contrast, his Democratic rival and former vice president Joe Biden has eschewed large-scale events and instead met people one-on-one at more traditional campaign stops to hear their stories.

Trump “has almost no way to relate for the challenges everyday people face. For his entire life, he has lived in a bubble of wealth or Manhattan,” Brendan Buck, former counselor to Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, said about the president’s town hall performance. “He has surrounded himself in this echo chamber where it is rare for him to be confronted in this way.”

Unlike attacking the news media or uttering “fake news” when he does not like the outcome, “you can’t attack a regular voter for his views,” Buck added.