After the Democratic National Convention and Republican National Convention solidified the nominations for the 2020 presidential election, it's now time for the next big event in the 2020 general election: the presidential debates between President Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, and former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic challenger.
Although some research shows that debates don't have as much of an effect on voters as some might expect, and President Donald Trump has reportedly avoided traditional debate prep in the weeks leading up to the first event, Nielsen's ratings history shows that debates between presidential candidates are usually highly watched. So we can probably expect a lot of viewers to tune in to the debate stage this year as Trump and Biden take a break from the campaign trail to go head-to-head in their efforts to win over voters for the 2020 election, beginning this Tuesday, Sept. 29.
Biden and Trump will appear in a total of three debates before the general election, which takes place on Tuesday, Nov. 3 and is already underway in some states. To help guide your viewership of the 2020 presidential debates, TV Guide has compiled everything you need to know, including details about how and when to tune in to the debates, where they'll take place, what to expect, and more.
When is the first Trump Biden debate?
The first debate between President Trump, the Republican incumbent, and former Vice President Biden, the Democratic presidential candidate, will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 29 at 9/8c. It will be held at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, and is expected to run for 90 minutes. Ohio is traditionally one of the battleground states that factor heavily into election results, and while polls have been close, Trump is currently leading with likely voters in that state. Fox News' Chris Wallace will serve as moderator for the debate. Wallace was chosen by the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates, which announced its four choices for 2020 debate moderators in early September.
The upcoming debate between Trump and Democratic nominee Biden will be broadcast on all the major networks, including NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox News, and CNN. Additional network-by-network information on how the individual channels and streaming services will cover the event can be found here.
What topics will be covered?
Trump and Biden will be questioned on a host of relevant, timely topics during the debates. In their first debate, they will cover six different topics, which were selected by moderator Chris Wallace. The categories, which will each receive a 15-minute time slot, include Trump's and Biden's records, the Supreme Court, COVID-19, the economy, race and violence in U.S. cities, and the integrity of the election. Per CNBC, the Commission on Presidential Debates has indicated that the topics are subject to change due to recent developments — potentially including the recent death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's plans to fill her seat with a new justice, despite the upcoming election.
When are the other debates, and who will moderate?
There will be a total of three presidential debates between incumbent Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden ahead of the November election, along with one vice presidential debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris, who is running on Biden's ticket. Here's everything you need to know about those debate plans.
VP debate: After the first presidential debate, the VP candidates will go head-to-head on Wednesday, Oct. 7 at 9/8c at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah, with USA Today‘s Washington Bureau chief Susan Page moderating. According to the Commission on Presidential Debates, this debate will be divided into nine segments of approximately 10 minutes each. After each question, the candidates will have two minutes to respond, and the moderator may use the rest of the time to encourage deeper discussions of the topics at hand.
Second presidential debate: The second POTUS debate between Trump and Biden will air on Thursday, Oct. 15 at 9/8c and will be held at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, Florida, with moderator Steve Scully, political editor of C-SPAN. The event will be town hall-style, with questions posed by citizens of the South Florida area who are uncommitted voters selected by Gallup's Dr. Frank Newport. Candidates will have two minutes each to respond to questions, and the moderator will have an additional minute to facilitate further discussion. Florida is considered a major battleground state for the 2020 election, with very narrow margins in the polls.
Third presidential debate: The third and final Trump-Biden debate, which is the fourth debate overall, will take place one week later, on Thursday, Oct. 22 at 9/8c, and be held at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, with NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker moderating. The format will be identical to the first POTUS debate.
What else do I need to know about the debates?
A number of politicians have made headlines for their comments about the debates, though these suggestions have not had any concrete impact on the debates at this point. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in an August interview that she thought Joe Biden should not debate Donald Trump, saying that Trump doesn't have any “association with truth, evidence, data, and facts” and that the former vice president shouldn't “legitimize” his arguments. Neither the Trump campaign nor the Biden campaign has publicly addressed her assessment. Biden has, however, proposed a live fact-checking feed and promised to do his own instant fact-checking of Trump throughout the debates. Meanwhile, Trump has suggested an interest in having TV and radio personality Joe Rogan moderate a separate debate after Rogan mentioned the idea in a podcast, but that has not resulted in any new debate being scheduled between the candidates.
When are the presidential town halls?
Ahead of the debates, both Trump and Biden committed to doing live network-hosted town halls. Trump's first town hall took place on ABC on Tuesday, Sept. 15 in Pennsylvania. George Stephanopoulos oversaw Trump's Q&A with “uncommitted” voters in the battleground state. Highlights of the event are available at ABC, and a full transcript is also available at ABC. The same week, Joe Biden participated in a separate town hall with CNN's Anderson Cooper and a socially distanced live audience in Biden's birthplace, Scranton, Pennsylvania, on Thursday, Sept. 17. Highlights of that event are available at CNN, and a full transcript is also available at CNN.