CLEVELAND (AP) — With just 35 days until the election, President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, are barreling into their crucial first debate Tuesday night. It's the most pivotal moment so far in a race that has remained stubbornly unchanged in the face of historic tumult.
Both men huddled with aides and in the final hours before the debate, which will offer them their biggest national stage to outline their starkly different visions for a country facing multiple crises, including racial justice protests and a pandemic that has killed more than 200,000 Americans and cost millions of jobs.
Millions of voters will get their first opportunity to compare the candidates’ policies and personalities side by side on national television for 90 minutes just five weeks before Election Day.
Some of the biggest questions heading into the night are how Trump will handle being on the defensive and how Biden will respond. Each candidate has been trying to cast the other in a negative light and on Tuesday will have a prime-time opportunity to debate the policies and rhetoric underlying those arguments.
For this year's presidential debate, crowds and pageantry are out, and COVID-19 tests and masks are in.
Debates are typically some of the most exciting nights of the campaign season, drawing a crowd of thousands of staffers, media and guests. But this year, like almost everything else, things are very different, with a long list of precautions in place.
Instead of the usual auditorium setting, the debate is being hosted by the Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University in the atrium of a health building that has been turned into a makeshift debate hall. Far fewer people will be in the audience. And there's little of the usual pageantry.