Thursday, 29 Oct 2020

US Presidential Debate LIVE updates: Donald Trump and Joe Biden face off for the first time weeks before 2020 election


  • President Donald Trump and former vice president Joe Biden are facing off in Cleveland Ohio for the first of the presidential debates. The 90-minute showdown will be conducted under strict coronavirus guidelines, with no handshakes, social distancing, and COVID tests for all attendees.
  • Coronavirus, the US economy, and race and violence are some of the topics that will be hotly contested today. The death of civil rights icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg will also throw the spotlight on the future US Supreme Court and Trump’s conservative nominee, Amy Coney Barrett.
  • The election will be held on November 3 but early postal voting has already begun in some states. Voter turnout is expected to reach record levels year, with some experts predicting that the number of people voting either in person or by mail could exceed 145 million.

Meet the moderator, Chris Wallace

Today's debate is moderated by Chris Wallace, the host of Fox News Sunday.

Wallace is no stranger to presidential debates and was widely praised by both sides of politics for his stewardship of the third showdown between Trump and Hillary Clinton in 2016.

(Indeed it was at this event that Trump declared he might not accept the election result of that year – a claim the President has repeated even more forcefully this year.)

Wallace's one-on-one interview with Trump in July was also one of the few that have genuinely challenged the President's falsehoods over issues such as coronavirus and law and order. You can check out Trump getting a bit testy with him here:

Some Democrat strategists wanted Wallace to fact-check both candidates in real-time, although that would have been a pretty big job. He's not expected to do this and will focus instead on asking his questions and keeping the event running smoothly. Not exactly an easy task.

An unprecedented debate for unprecedented times

So what can we expect from today's debate?

Firstly, expect it to be unlike any other.

Thanks to the global pandemic, today's proceedings will follow strict coronavirus guidelines.

There'll be no pre-debate handshake. There'll be plenty of social distancing. The audience will be limited to about 75 people. And everyone attending, including the media, must be tested for COVID-19 first.

The debate will run for 90 minutes with no ad breaks and no opening statements – just a good old fashioned grilling on six different topics, with each segment lasting 15 minutes.

Those topics are:

  • The political records of each candidate;
  • Coronavirus;
  • The economy;
  • Race and violence;
  • Election integrity; and
  • The Supreme Court nomination

Welcome to the US presidential debate

Hi everyone – welcome to the US presidential debate, which I'll be live blogging over the next few hours.

With 35 days until the election, incumbent US President Donald Trump will face off for the first time with rival Joe Biden today, giving millions of Americans the chance to see how the two compare before they head to the ballot box on November 3 (or send in their postal votes over the next few weeks).

Trump and Biden will face off in the first presidential election later this morning.Credit:SMH/The Age

This will be the first of three presidential debates, and both candidates will be desperately hoping to sway some of the crucial voters who are yet to make up their minds.

Trump and Biden are polar opposites – in politics and personality – but there's one thing they can agree on: that this is the most consequential election in recent US history.

To that end, you might want to strap yourself in. Things are about to get a little wild.

Trump Biden 2020

Our weekly newsletter will deliver expert analysis of the race to the White House from our US correspondent Matthew Knott. Coming soon. Sign up now for The Sydney Morning Herald‘s newsletter here, The Age‘s here, Brisbane Times‘ here and WAtoday‘s here. 

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