Like many things this year, the presidential and vice-presidential debates have looked a little different. And thanks to the coronavirus and a host of political developments, the remaining debates on the schedule are now in flux.
So far, the two debates that have taken place have featured only one moderator per debate, and the number of people allowed to watch in person has been much more limited than usual. Both debates have started at 9 p.m. Eastern time and have run uninterrupted for an hour and a half.
But with two debates still remaining on the calendar, the Commission on Presidential Debates now faces a dilemma. Mr. Trump announced shortly before 1 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 2, that he and the first lady, Melania Trump, had tested positive for the virus. And now it is no longer clear whether the final two presidential debates will take place or in what form.
Here’s a rundown of what we know for each debate so far:
First Presidential Debate
Location: President Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee, met at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. The University of Notre Dame withdrew as host because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The moderator: Chris Wallace, the anchor of “Fox News Sunday,” moderated the debate. It was the second time he had moderated a presidential debate; the first was between Mr. Trump and Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Topics announced: The moderator has full discretion in picking the debate topics. For the first round, Mr. Wallace chose Mr. Trump’s and Mr. Biden’s records, the Supreme Court, the coronavirus pandemic, the economy, race and violence in cities, and the integrity of the election. There were 15 minutes to discuss each topic.
Location: Kingsbury Hall at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.
The moderator: The vice-presidential debate was moderated by Susan Page, USA Today’s Washington bureau chief.
Second Presidential Debate
On Oct. 9, the second presidential debate was canceled. It had been scheduled for Oct. 15 in Miami.
The Commission on Presidential Debates had previously said it would be held virtually — with the candidates in separate locations — or not at all, citing safety concerns about the coronavirus.
But Mr. Trump demanded that the debate be restored to its original, in-person format. And then because Mr. Trump had declined to take part in a virtual debate, Mr. Biden developed his own plan to participate in an ABC News town hall that evening in Philadelphia.
No law requires presidential candidates to take part in debates. So, eventually, the debate was simply called off.
Third Presidential Debate
As of Oct. 9, the Trump campaign said it was onboard, and Mr. Biden’s campaign also agreed to participate in the debate as long as it was either a one-on-one matchup with Mr. Trump or a town-hall-style event in which both candidates took questions from voters.
The original plan for the third presidential debate is as follows:
Location: Belmont University in Nashville.
How to watch: The Times will have an uninterrupted stream along with a live chat and a live briefing with analysis from our reporters. The debate will also be carried on the news networks.
The moderator: Kristen Welker, NBC News White House correspondent and co-anchor of “Weekend Today.” She is only the second Black woman to serve as the sole moderator of a presidential debate. The first was Carole Simpson.
Topics announced: The moderator and the Commission on Presidential Debates will announce topics a week before the debate, but as in the first debate, there will be six topics. Each will get 15 minutes.
Matt Stevens and Michael M. Grynbaum contributed reporting.
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