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US Election 2020

How long will the final Trump - Biden presidential debate last?

The President and former Vice President go head-to-head in Nashville on 22 October with officials hoping to avoid a repeat of their first encounter.

The President and former Vice President go head-to-head in Nashville on 22 October with officials hoping to avoid a repeat of their first encounter.

The hotly-anticipated final presidential debate of 2020 will start at 9:00pm ET and will last 90 minutes without any commercial breaks. In this sense it follows the format of the first debate between President Donald Trump and Joe Biden, but some subtle changes have be made to help avoid the event degenerating into another slanging match between the two candidates.

Biden - Trump final debate live online

Both will have their microphones muted during their opponent’s initial responses to prevent candidates interrupting the opening two-minute remarks on each topic. As reported by CNN, a source close to the Commission on Presidential Election (CPD) said: "this is not a change to rules but rather a move to promote adherence to rules that have been agreed to by both campaigns."

This will be the final chance for the American people to see the two candidates pitted together on stage and even this appeared to be in doubt at one point. The second presidential debate was cancelled in the aftermath of Trump’s positive covid-19 test and his refusal to take part in a virtual debate.

“I’m not gonna waste my time on a virtual debate,” said Trump, when asked about the prospect of facing Biden remotely. “That’s not what debating is all about.”

What will be discussed during the 90 minutes?

As was the case in previous debates the topics up for discussion are selected by the evening’s moderator, this time Kristen Walker of NBC News, and made public ahead of the event. Again, responses to covid-19, climate change and issues surrounding race will be on the agenda.

The full list of topics is as follows:

Fighting COVID-19
American Families
Race in America
Climate Change
National Security

For the first debate the CPD stated that the 90-minute debate would be divided into six 15-minute segments, but no such structure has been confirmed this time.

How have Donald Trump and Joe Biden fared since the first debate?

CNN's Jake Tapper memorably described the first, and so far only, presidential debate as a “hot mess, inside a dumpster fire, inside a train wreck”. So critical were most pundits of the Ohio debate that there was some talk of future events being scrapped, but in such a fast-paced political climate another discussion of the two candidates was deemed essential.

The biggest news has been the President’s own battle with coronavirus which has drawn both praise and criticism from observers. For Trump supporters it is evidence of the President’s physical fitness, something he is often eager to assert, and a success story for the cocktail of drugs that he has attributed his recovery to. For others, it is proof of Trump’s lax attitude to the virus and a contributing factor in the White House covid-19 outbreak of early October.

The impending confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett as the ninth Supreme Court Justice has brought about another conflict between the two parties with the Democrats accusing the Republicans of court-packing. Barrett is known to hold conservative views and during her recent Senate hearing was questioned robustly on her beliefs. Democrat Senators pushed her for her thoughts on key issues like climate change and same-sex marriage, and it is no surprise to see both appear in the topic list for Thursday’s debate in some form.


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