Here’s what to know about the 2020 presidential debates

For decades, the presidential debates have provided voters a glimpse into how the candidates match up on national issues and against each other. 

With Nov. 3 nearing, it’s time to put the 2020 general election debates on your radar. 

Ahead, read a breakdown of how the debates are shaping up and where you can watch them. 

The presidential debate schedule 

The first presidential debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to kick off on Tuesday, Sept. 29, at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, according to the Commission on Presidential Debates

In 2004, the school was also the site of the vice presidential debate between then-Vice President Dick Cheney and Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. John Edwards. The Cleveland Clinic, which will co-host, is also serving as the CPD’s health security advisor for all four debates. 

The vice presidential debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) is slated for Wednesday, Oct. 7 at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. It will be divided into nine 10-minute segments.

A second presidential debate is set to take place on Thursday, Oct. 15, at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, Florida, and a third presidential debate is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 22, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. 

Each debate will begin at 9 p.m. ET and run for 90 minutes, until 10:30 p.m., without any commercial breaks. 

Following the tradition of the past couple of election cycles, the first and third presidential debates will be divided into six 15-minute segments, according to the CPD. Each topic for the segments will be selected and announced by the moderator at least one week before the debate.

Unlike years past, the CPD said there will only be one moderator in an effort to have as few people onstage as possible during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Each moderator will be announced in early September. 

As for the second presidential debate, the format will look more like a town hall meeting and questions will come from residents of the Miami area. 

But just like everything else during 2020, the debates have been faced with uncertainty as well. 

The University of Notre Dame was originally set to host the first debate before withdrawing in late July, citing coronavirus-related concerns. Similarly, the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor was set to host the second debate until college officials cancelled in late June, saying it would not be feasible for the campus to host the debate as planned.

Who’s debating, and who’ll be there to watch?

Donald Trump and Joe Biden, as of now, will both be debating at the three events. 

It’s still unknown what the audience will look like at these debates (if there even is one), or whether the candidates will be in-person or appear virtually. While the Trump campaign requested that both candidates appear onstage together, the commission did not respond to the request, saying instead that they will continue looking to Cleveland Clinic as a health security advisor.

Trump’s campaign also contacted the CPD in August asking to add a fourth debate to the schedule for early September, arguing that it would allow mail-in-voters to watch debates before casting their ballots. 

Rejecting his campaign’s request, the CPD responded in a letter saying, “While more people will likely vote by mail in 2020, the debate schedule has been and will be highly publicized. Any voter who wishes to watch one or more debates before voting will be well aware of that opportunity.”

How to watch

All four debates will be broadcast by the White House pool networks, though exact stations have yet to be determined. The Washington Post has confirmed it will have an uninterrupted live stream of the debate, and most other major news stations will likely stream the program as well.

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