The Biden-Trump debate: what is the format and what topics will be covered?

Democrat candidate Joe Biden and current US president Donald Trump go head-to-head in the in the first live televised debate on Tuesday night at 21:00 (ET).

The Biden-Trump debate: what is the format and what topics will be covered?

Donald Trump and Joe Biden will square off in their first debate in Cleveland, Ohio, on Tuesday. Trump carried Ohio in the 2016 election and almost certainly must do so again to win a second term. Polls show Biden leading in the Midwestern state.

Biden also is ahead of Trump nationally and in a number of other key battleground states, according to polls.

"I am looking very forward to the debate," Trump told reporters at the White House on Monday.

The debate is likely to focus in part on Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 200,000 Americans, and his push to fill a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. On Saturday, the president nominated Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative U.S. federal appeals court judge, to replace liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died on Sept. 18.

Tax attack

Trump in 2016 broke a decades-old tradition of presidential nominees releasing their tax returns when seeking office and the re-emergence of his tax history as an election issue offers Biden another avenue of attack Tuesday evening.

Biden's campaign is trying to turn the tables on Trump, who ran successfully as an economic populist four years ago and who is regarded by some observers as having an edge over the challenger on the issue of who would best manage the economy.

Donald J. Trump. EFE/EPA/Ken Cedeno

In recent days, Biden has characterized the race as a clash between Scranton, the working class Pennsylvania city where he spent part of his childhood, and Park Avenue. Trump Tower, which serves as the headquarters for the Trump Organization, is located near that boulevard in Manhattan.

Trump has painted his economic record in glowing terms, saying his policies were responsible for boosting growth and reducing U.S. unemployment to near 50-year lows prior to the outbreak of the pandemic.

His message, however, has been badly dented by the recession triggered by the virus, which has led to an economic cratering that has put millions of Americans out of work. Democrats say Trump has mishandled the pandemic and embraced policies that favored corporations and the rich.

Biden is proposing to hike the corporate income tax and raise taxes on people making more than $400,000 if elected.

Trump, who signed a $1.5 trillion Republican-sponsored tax cut package in late 2017, accuses his opponent of pushing a far-left agenda that will destroy the U.S. economy just as it emerges from the pandemic.

RALEIGH, NC - SEPTEMBER 28: A guest attending Shop Talk listens to Democratic vice presidential nominee, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) speak at Whites Barbershop on September 28, 2020 in Raleigh, North Carolina. Harris's campaign swing to the state comes a day before the first presidential debate between running mate Joe Biden and President Donald Trump.

What topics will Trump and Biden debate?

The list of topics selected by moderator Chris Wallace is as follows:

- Trump's and Biden's records

- The Supreme Court

- Covid-19

- The economy

- Race and violence in U.S. cities

- The integrity of the election

Amounts of tax paid and publicly releasing tax returns isn’t specifically mentioned, but one would expect Biden to spend some time focusing on that topic. Each segment will get around 15 minutes of the total 90 minutes of the debate. Each candidate will have two minutes to respond to the opening question, and will also have a chance to respond to each other.