US President Donald Trump and his opponent, former US Vice-President Joe Biden are scheduled to face-off in the first presidential debate of 2020 early September 30 (September 29, in the US). The debate comes a little more than 4 weeks before the US voters are slated to decide whether to give Trump a second term, or to replace him with Biden on November 3.
Both candidates this year are no strangers to presidential debates. While Trump last participated in these debates as the Republican nominee in 2016, Biden participated as the incumbent Vice-President against Paul Ryan while seeking election in 2012. Going into the debate, polls show Biden leading Trump nationally by an estimated 7 to 10 percentage points.
This year's debate is scheduled to be held at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, and will be moderated by Chris Wallace, a Fox News Sunday anchor. An estimated one million voters have already been reported to have cast their votes in a historic early voting surge, and is heavily expected to be accentuated by issues sprung up only recently. The first debate will span 90 minutes and will consist of six 15-minute segments, covering candidates' records, the Supreme Court, COVID-19, the economy, race and violence in cities and the integrity of elections.
The COVID-19 pandemic has heavily battered the economy, while race and violence still remain entrenched issues. The integrity of elections have been in question since allegations were raised about Trump's win in 2016 with the help of Russian disinformation machinery and feasibility to conduct large-scale elections during the ongoing pandemic. The Supreme Court has become a recent issue with the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on September 18.
As BOOM had earlier explained, unlike in India, the appointment of a US Supreme Court Justice is a deeply political process. Trump is keen to appoint conservative Catholic Amy Coney Barrett to fill her seat. Barret is likely to be appointed by the Senate after a hearing in a chain of events that is the antithesis of what occurred in 2016, when the Senate refused to entertain a Supreme Court nominee during an election year. Two days ago, a New York Times investigation found that Trump may have shown chronic losses in his businesses as a method of tax avoidance.
The vice-presidential debate between incumbent Mike Pence and challenger Kamala Harris will follow on October 7. The second debate will be held October 15 and the third on October 22. The themes or topics will be unveiled closer to the debates.
The debates are organised by the Commission on Presidential Debates, who state that they are a non-profit, independent and non-partisan organisation founded by the Republican and Democratic National Committee chairs for the benefit of the American electorate in 1987. While managed voluntarily by a cross-section of experts, its co-chairs also include former presidents like Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
Presidential debates are a gargantuan affair, as the electorate gets to hear on topical issues straight from the contesting candidates. This will especially be crucial in a year where big ticket in-person campaigning and rallies have been constrained due to pandemic. The debates garner views in the tens of millions, with the first presidential debate last election season in 2016 between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump commanding a viewership of a record 84 million people.
Hover over the graphic below to see debate viewership since 2000.
- First debate
US: September 29, 9PM ET
India: September 30, 6:30 AM IST
- Vice Presidential debate
US: October 7, 9PM ET
India: October 8, 6:30 AM IST
- Second debate
US: October 15, 9PM ET
India: October 16, 6:30 AM IST
- Third debate:
US: October 22, 9PM ET
India: October 23, 6:30 AM IST
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