The final debate between US President Donald Trump and Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden is set to take place at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee later on Friday before the November 3 election.
The candidates are expected to attract viewership in the tens of millions of Americans for their 90-minute encounter, giving the US president one last crack at shifting a race that has had him trailing the former vice-president for weeks in the debate set to be moderated by NBC's Kristen Welker, reports the Guardian.
Donald Trump and Joe Biden have already feuded over plans for their final TV debate. The Republican president's campaign accused organisers of helping the Democrat by leaving out foreign policy as a topic. The Biden camp shot back that Trump was trying to avoid questions about his response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The US federal election commission tweaked the format for the debate so that the candidates' microphones are turned off while their opponent is speaking for the opening two minutes of each of six issue segments - in an attempt to prevent any sort of interruptions. For the remainder of each of the 15-minute segments, discussion will be open between the two men.
According to CBS News, the topics for the October 22 debate will include:
- Fighting Covid-19
- American Families
- Race in America
- Climate Change
- National Security
The Trump way
There were few indications that Trump intends to change tack in the final hours leading up to the Nashville debate.
On Monday he denigrated Welker as a "radical left Democrat", while his campaign has accused the debate commission of being biased towards Biden and objected to the six policy subjects that NBC News has chosen.
They include three areas on which Trump's record is especially vulnerable – race in America, Covid-19 and climate change – as well as national security, leadership and America's families.
Bill Stepien, Trump's campaign manager, protested in a letter to the commission that this debate should have been on foreign policy, territory on which Trump thinks he can prevail following recent breakthrough agreements in the Middle East.
Donald Trump has also been mired in his by now familiar angry denunciations of figures within his own administration and the media. Instead of making a closing argument to the American people, he has expended valuable political capital calling Anthony Fauci, the country's top infectious diseases official, a "disaster" and "idiot", and storming out of an interview with CBS News' 60 Minutes.
Joe Biden biding the right bids
Biden was hunkered down in Nashville for debate preparation, suggesting that he sees the event as a chance for him to solidify his frontrunner status.
In support of Biden, Barack Obama travelled to Philadelphia on Wednesday making an appeal to African American residents to vote. Pennsylvania, which was central to Trump's victory in 2016, is showing Biden ahead in the polls, but not enough for comfort.
Kamala Harris, Biden's running mate, was in North Carolina on Wednesday, as was Trump himself. North Carolina, a traditional Republican stronghold, is seen as increasingly "purple" in that its changing demographics has put it up for grabs for either party.
It will be the first opportunity for the two candidates to debate the handling of the coronavirus pandemic following President Trump's own experience being hospitalized for Covid-19. The debate will also occur in the midst of the political battle over confirming the president's Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, whose Senate confirmation hearings got underway this week.
The three scheduled presidential debates in 2020 have shaped up to be among the most volatile in US history. The second debate was cancelled after Trump contracted coronavirus and refused to stage the discussion through video links, resulting in dueling separate town hall meetings on different networks.