2020’s First Presidential Debate: Time, how to watch, and what to expect

With less than five weeks to go to the Nov. 3 election, President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden will face-off on stage Tuesday for the first of three debates that will be dominated by the selection of Judge Amy Coney Barrett as a Supreme Court nominee, the coronavirus pandemic and the sometimes explosive protests that have been rocking cities across the US.

Here’s what you need to know:

What time will the first debate start?

It will be held at the Sheila and Eric Samson Pavilion on the Health Education Campus of Cleveland Clinic, affiliated with Case Western Reserve University beginning at 9 p.m. The debate is expected to last 90 minutes and will not have any commercial interruptions. Chris Wallace of Fox News will be the moderator.

What is the format?

The debate will consist of six, 15-minute segments arranged by topics — the coronavirus, race and protests, the Supreme Court, the economy, the candidates’ records and election integrity. Each candidate will have two minutes to respond to Wallace’s questions. They can then react to each other.

Can the debate be live-streamed?

All three presidential debates will be live-streamed on the major platforms — Fubo, Hulu, YouTube and will be aired live by CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, NBC and C-Span.

How did the candidates prepare?

Trump said he’s been too busy being president to do much debate preparation, but said on Sunday that former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani have been helping him, while Biden has been holed up for days in his Wilmington, Del., home prepping for the contest. “I’m running a country.  I don’t have the luxury,” he said at a White House briefing on Sunday. “Sometimes, you can go too much in that stuff, you know. Sometimes you can go too much.”

In contrast, Biden has been gearing up for a full-frontal assault from Trump and has been holding mock sessions with Bob Bauer, a senior Biden aide and former White House general counsel, playing the part of the president, the Associated Press reported.

How did the debate change because of coronavirus?

Biden and Trump will not shake hands when they enter the stage and won’t exchange handshakes with Wallace, CNN reported. Also, once on stage the three will not have to wear masks. The audience has been restricted to fewer than 100 people and they will be required to maintain social distancing.

Who will moderate the second debate?

Steven Scully, the political editor at C-Span, will be the moderator for the second debate Oct. 15 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. It will follow a town-hall format. Candidates will have two minutes to respond to each question. It will run for 90 minutes and begin at 9 p.m.

Who will moderate the third debate?

Kristen Welker of NBC News will moderate the third debate Oct. 22 from Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. Its format will be identical to the first debate and like the others begin at 9 p.m. and run for 90 minutes.

Will there be a vice presidential debate?

Yes, on Oct. 7 from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. It will be moderated by Susan Page, the Washington bureau chief of USA Today. The format will consist of nine segments each 10 minutes long. The moderator will ask a question and each candidate will have two minutes to respond.

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