Here’s what to expect in the first 2020 presidential debate between Trump and Biden
After months of trading barbs through social media, speeches, TV ads and two nominating conventions, President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden will meet face to face — and at least six feet apart — on Tuesday for the first presidential debate.
The presidential race has been stable for the last few months, with polls showing Biden ahead. Though it’s unclear what would change voters’ minds at this point in the race, the debate will give both Biden, 77, and Trump, 74, a chance to demonstrate their mental agility after facing attacks from one another.
Both candidates have been preparing in their own ways. Biden is prepping with advisors, and the president is watching the former vice president’s 2008 and 2012 debates.
Here’s what you need to know ahead of the debate:
What time is the debate?
The debate will start at 6 p.m. Pacific time on Tuesday and last 90 minutes, with no commercial breaks. It will be held at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
The University of Notre Dame in Indiana had been planning to host, but the school announced in July that it was withdrawing because health and safety precautions would reduce the educational value for its students. Tuesday’s debate is being co-hosted by the Cleveland Clinic, which will advise the private, nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates on health security for all the debates.
President Trump and Joe Biden will hold their first of three debates on Tuesday. How are they preparing?
How do I watch?
The major news networks — ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and NBC — will air the debate on TV as well as stream it on their apps and websites. C-SPAN will air it on TV, its website and its YouTube channel.
Who is moderating?
Chris Wallace, the anchor of “Fox News Sunday,” will moderate the debate.
Wallace led questioning at the third presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Trump in 2016. More recently, Wallace drew praise for his direct questioning of the president in a July interview, which covered the COVID-19 pandemic, the president’s boasts about acing a cognitive test and whether Trump would accept the results of the presidential election.
Didn’t Trump’s campaign suggest other moderators?
The campaign, through former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, sent the debate commission a list of suggested moderators, including Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo, and talk-radio host and Trump booster Hugh Hewitt. Wallace wasn’t on the list.
The president has claimed that Wallace, a veteran journalist known as an independent voice and prepared interviewer, will go easier on Biden.
“He’ll ask me tough questions, and it’ll show,” Trump said last week during a Fox News Radio interview. “It’ll be unfair, I have no doubt about it. But he’ll be controlled by the radical left. They control him.”
Wallace’s colleague Brian Kilmeade pushed back lightly on his radio show: “I will tell you for sure, he is not controlled by anyone.”
After months of making unsubstantiated claims that Biden is mentally diminished, Trump is now aiming to lower expectations, saying Biden has more experience in debates and promoting a baseless conspiracy theory that Biden takes performance enhancing drugs.
Trump’s new-ish conspiracy theory and the Biden camp’s slap-back
Trump claimed at a rally this month that the former vice president gets “a big fat shot in the ass and he comes out, and for two hours he’s better than ever before.” He continued promoting his conspiracy theory on Sunday and Monday.
“I will be strongly demanding a Drug Test of Sleepy Joe Biden prior to, or after, the Debate on Tuesday night,” Trump tweeted Sunday. “Naturally, I will agree to take one also. His Debate performances have been record setting UNEVEN, to put it mildly. Only drugs could have caused this discrepancy???”
Asked Sunday if he would take a drug test, Biden laughed the question off and said he had no comment. But his campaign slapped back at Trump.
“If the president thinks his best case is made in urine he can have at it,” Kate Bedingfield, Biden’s deputy campaign manager, said in a statement to Politico. “We’d expect nothing less from Donald Trump, who pissed away the chance to protect the lives of 200K Americans when he didn’t make a plan to stop COVID-19.”
What topics will be discussed?
The debate will consist of six 15-minute rounds on topics chosen by Wallace: Trump and Biden’s records; the Supreme Court; COVID-19; the economy; election integrity; and race and policing.
Wallace’s decision to frame the wave of anti-police brutality protests as “race and violence in our cities” has drawn criticism for appearing to fit the Trump campaign’s narrative on the nation’s state of civil unrest. Trump made the slogan “law and order,” as well as his support of police, a major part of his reelection pitch. Biden has repeatedly denounced violent protests and riots and said he opposes “defunding” police departments.
A look at where President Trump and Joe Biden stand on key issues in the 2020 election, including healthcare, immigration, police reform and climate.
Questions about the Supreme Court will almost certainly cover the debate over when the Senate should vote on a successor for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg following her death this month. Despite arguing in 2016 that Supreme Court nominees shouldn’t be confirmed in election years, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said within hours of her death that Trump’s nominee would get a vote. On Saturday, Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the delight of conservatives; she would be expected to move the court further to the right on many issues, including abortion and guns.
Wallace will likely ask Biden if he supports adding more justices to the court, a proposal supported by liberals who worry Barrett would give conservatives a 6-3 majority and change the court for a generation. Adding more justices would require eliminating the Senate rule that requires 60 votes to pass major legislation — a proposal that has gained traction within the Democratic Party, and which President Obama endorsed earlier this year.
On election integrity, Wallace could ask the president for evidence backing up his repeated, unsubstantiated claims that mail voting will lead to widespread voter fraud, or ask either candidate about how they would address election interference from foreign adversaries.
Trump’s refusal to say that he’d peacefully transfer power may just be bluster. But there are steps he could take, and Democrats are on the alert.
Both candidates may also be asked if they’re willing to accept the results of the presidential election and commit to a peaceful transfer of power. Biden has said he would, but Trump has pointedly refused.
And now Wallace will be watched to see if he asks about the explosive story the New York Times published Sunday after examining decades of Trump tax returns, showing that he paid little or no federal income tax many years and wrote off items such as residences and hair styling.
News of Trump’s tax evasion plays to Biden’s ‘Scranton-vs.-Park Ave.’ campaign. It won’t upend the race, but it’s another hurdle for Trump.
When is the next debate?
The only debate between Republican Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic nominee Sen. Kamala Harris of California is scheduled for Oct. 7 at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. The next debate between Biden and Trump will take place Oct. 15 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami. A third presidential debate is set for Oct. 22 at Belmont University in Nashville. Those debates will also run from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Pacific time, without commercial breaks.
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