US President Donald Trump is taking on his Democratic opponent Joe Biden in Nashville in the pair’s last debate before next month’s election. It’s only their second time sharing the stage in a hotly contested race.
Thursday night’s debate, which was initially supposed to focus on foreign policy, will center instead on Covid-19, American families, racial issues, climate change, national security, and “leadership.”
The first presidential debate, held last month, was widely panned for Trump’s aggression, Biden’s exasperated reliance on prepared statements, and the moderator’s inability to force either candidate to adhere to prescribed time limits. This time, the moderator will be equipped with a mute button, which Trump has denounced as “very unfair,” but which his campaign apparently agreed to. The mute button is not supposed to be used beyond the 2-minute opening statements by Biden and Trump, however.
A planned second debate was canceled following Trump’s diagnosis with Covid-19. With the president thus infected, the Commission on Presidential Debates insisted on a virtual debate, which Trump refused. Both candidates ended up holding rival town hall events instead.
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Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence, squared off against Democratic challenger Kamala Harris earlier this month for the only vice presidential debate on the schedule. A comparatively subdued affair after the presidential slugfest, it nonetheless saw both candidates talking over each other and a moderator seemingly unwilling to rein in their excesses.
Polls show Biden leading Trump in most states, though the run-up to the 2016 election showed a similar spread, only to deliver Trump his victory – in the Electoral College, at least – over Democrat Hillary Clinton. Unlike 2016, however, 2020’s election has included a dramatic expansion of early and mail-in voting due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has made many Americans wary of venturing out to polling places to physically cast their vote. Trump has extensively condemned mail-in voting, claiming it is fraught with fraud.
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