What to know about the 2020 presidential debates

What to know about the 2020 presidential debates

(Ben Kirchner for The Washington Post)

The first presidential debate between President Trump and former vice president Joe Biden is scheduled to take place Sept. 29, and there are two more set for Oct. 15 and 22. The debate between Vice President Pence and Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) is slated for Oct. 7. Here’s what you need to know about how and where to watch the debates.

Next presidential debate
Date: Tuesday, Sept. 29
Location: Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland
Time: 9-10:30 p.m. Eastern time
Where to watch: The Washington Post will have an uninterrupted live stream of the debate.
Moderator: Chris Wallace, anchor of “Fox News Sunday”
Upcoming presidential debates

The nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates has announced the moderators for each debate: Chris Wallace of “Fox News Sunday,” Susan Page of USA Today, Steve Scully of C-SPAN and Kristen Welker of NBC News.

Unlike in years past, there is only one moderator in each debate, as the pandemic necessitates having as few people onstage as possible. The Trump campaign suggested moderators that included a number of Fox News hosts and conservative commentators. In response, the commission said it would take “great care, as always, to ensure that the selected moderators are qualified and fair.” None of the campaign’s suggestions were given the job.

Trump’s campaign also unsuccessfully lobbied for an additional debate, arguing there needed to be one earlier in September because the expansion of voting by mail means ballots could be decided earlier. The commission rejected that idea, noting the “difference between ballots having been issued by a state and those ballots having been cast by voters, who are under no compulsion to return their ballots before the debates.”

Upcoming vice-presidential debates

We don’t know what the audience will look like for these debates, whether there will even be one, or even whether the candidates will appear virtually or together onstage. The Trump campaign requested that both candidates appear onstage together. The commission did not respond to that request, saying only that it will follow all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and that it has retained Cleveland Clinic as a health security adviser for the debates.

Here’s what we know so far about each individual debate:

First presidential debate: Tuesday, Sept. 29

Location: Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. (This was originally scheduled to be held at the University of Notre Dame. Notre Dame withdrew, saying the fact that it would have to limit student attendance and volunteer opportunities because of the pandemic erases the reason to host a debate at the university.)

Time: 9-10:30 p.m. Eastern

Where to watch: The Washington Post will have an uninterrupted live stream of the debate. It will also be carried on most major news stations.

Moderator: Chris Wallace, anchor of “Fox News Sunday”

Details: The debate will be 90 minutes long and have no commercial breaks. It will be divided into six 15-minute segments that the moderator gets to choose and is expected to announce at least a week before the debate.

How each candidate is preparing: Trump isn’t doing much. He has not held a mock debate and has no plans to, resting instead on his experience as president, reports NBC News. Biden has said he wants to be a fact checker for the president, and he also said he didn’t want to get pulled into a personal fight on issues like family and appear angry onstage. “I hope I don’t get baited into a brawl with this guy, because that’s the only place he’s comfortable,” he said at a fundraiser, adding: “I know how to handle bullies.”


Vice-presidential debate: Wednesday, Oct. 7

Location: The University of Utah in Salt Lake City. As of now, the university has not reversed its decision to hold this debate.

Time: 9-10:30 p.m. Eastern

Where to watch: The Washington Post will have an uninterrupted live stream of the debate. It will also be carried on most major news stations.

Moderator: Susan Page, Washington bureau chief, USA Today

Details: The debate will be 90 minutes long and have no commercial breaks. It will be divided into nine segments of 10 minutes each.


Second presidential debate: Thursday, Oct. 15

Location: Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami. The debate was moved to this location because of the pandemic. It was originally scheduled for the University of Michigan, which determined it wasn’t safe to bring campaigns, journalists and guests to the university in a pandemic.

Time: 9-10:30 p.m. Eastern

Where to watch: The Washington Post will have an uninterrupted live stream of the debate. It will also be carried on most major news stations.

Details: The debate will be 90 minutes long and have no commercial breaks. This debate will be a town hall format, where people who live in the Miami area can pose questions.

Moderator: Steve Scully, political editor of C-SPAN


Third and final presidential debate: Thursday, Oct. 22

Location: Belmont University in Nashville. As of now, the university has not reversed its decision to hold this debate.

Time: 9-10:30 p.m. Eastern

Where to watch: The Washington Post will have an uninterrupted live stream of the debate. It will also be carried on most major news stations.

Moderator: Kristen Welker, NBC News White House correspondent and co-anchor of “Today Weekend”

Details: The debate will be 90 minutes long and have no commercial breaks. It will be divided into six 15-minute segments that the moderator gets to choose and is expected to announce at least a week before the debate.

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