The First Presidential Debate Is Live: The Highlights (So Far) as Biden and Trump Go Head-to-Head
Editor's note: This article will be updated during and after Tuesday night's presidential debate.
After more than a year on the campaign trail for each of them, President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden are at last debating, one-on-one, on Tuesday night in Cleveland.
The face-off began at 9 p.m. ET is the first of three scheduled between the candidates ahead of the Nov. 3 election, with a separate debate next week between Vice President Mike Pence and California Sen. Kamala Harris, Biden's running mate.
Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace is moderating the debate.
Wallace, 72 — who also moderated a presidential debate four years ago, between Trump and then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton — has said he will cover a range of topics including the Supreme Court, the novel coronavirus pandemic, the economy and the nationwide unrest sparked by the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others.
In a reflection of the pandemic, the first of this year's debates included only a select group of audience members — who were reportedly tested for the virus and many of who entered the venue masked — and the candidates did not shake hands at the beginning.
Here's what you need to know about what led up to Tuesday's debate and the key moments once Biden and Trump took the stage.
Leading Up to the Debate
While Trump has signaled he hopes to depict Biden as both enfeebled and a figurehead for radicals — echoing his attacks since the summer — the debate is seen by the president's detractors as rich with opportunities to highlight his electoral vulnerabilities.
State and national polls have shown Trump trailing for months, including in must-win swing states such as Arizona and Pennsylvania. Biden aims to capitalize on his edge by hammering at the president's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and, also likely, spotlight a recent exposé about his secretive taxes.
In the weeks leading up to Tuesday's debate, Trump framed it as a test for his opponent, who he has often accused of appearing "sleepy" and "low energy" (or, conversely, drug-addled when Biden is energetic).
In the hours before the event, the Trump campaign conspiratorially claimed Biden had declined to prove he wouldn't wear an earpiece during the debate, which the latter's campaign denied — responding instead that Trump had allegedly tried to stop Wallace from mentioning the more than 200,000 people in the U.S. killed by the coronavirus so far.
Similarly, over the weekend, the Biden campaign hit back at Trump's speculation about his drug use, questioning whether Trump's ″best case is made in urine″ and accusing him of having ″pissed away" the ability to save the lives of those who died as a result of the pandemic.
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