Trump vs Biden: What you need to know about the presidential debate

The first presidential debate between President Trump and former vice president Joe Biden is scheduled to take place in Cleveland and it airs about 2am Irish time (Sky News are among the channels showing it live). Staying up to watch or just want the gist? Here's what you need to know


In 2020, the year of COVID-19, those of us outside the US might almost forget the upcoming US election. On the ground campaigning has largely been stalled thanks to the pandemic, so the first of these televised debates between the two presidential frontrunners has been and is hugely anticipated.

While many voters will have already made up their mind about who to vote for – though remember the last election? Ignore the opinion polls until you see the final tally of numbers – both Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will be hoping to sway those who have yet to make up their minds. And it's worth mentioning here that millions in the US will watch the debate, so the potential to reach those who are undecided is huge.

So much is riding on this election. This change for change, any change, any chance to see the man, and current US president who brought the words "grab 'em by the pussy" into the public domain step off the podium for which he is deeply inexperienced and unsuited. The man who would see children torn away from their parents, who values male, white supremacy over equal rights, or the right to choose.

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And that's just the start of it. We've seen four years of divisive politics, of unrest, of large scale protests against racial injustice and violence. Many view this election as a key moment in the future of the United States.

The debate

We know a little of what will go down. Trump will aim low; attacking Biden's weak points – Trump's campaign has almost solely been focused on casting Biden as senile seizing on every verbal stumble, in effort to plant doubt in voters' minds that the 77-year-old former vice president is up for the job.

Biden, on the other hand, is a more than capable debator and has promised to fact-check Trump as much as possible, but will want to avoid anything that gets him riled up or angry on stage.  You can bet Trump's apparent and meagre $750 tax bill will be in there somewhere.  Trump's handling of Covid-19 has become the dominant issue for Biden and this debate allows him to directly take the President to task for his handling of the pandemic to date.

The finer details

The debate will be 90 minutes long and have no commercial breaks and the candidates will have two minutes to respond after the moderator opens each segment with a question. Fox News host Chris Wallace is the moderator. It will be a socially distanced affair with no handshaking. There will be no opening statements.

It will be divided into six 15-minute segments. They are: 1) The Trump and Biden records; 2) The Supreme Court; 3) Covid-19; 4) the economy; 5) race and violence in cities; 6) the integrity of the election.

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All-in-all, it's going to be some watch – and well worth staying up into the early hours for.

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