Nashville, United States:
US President Donald Trump and Joe Biden hold their final debate Thursday in a prime-time televised clash where even a plexiglass barrier and the mute moderator button are unlikely to dampen the sparks as the two men s face just 12 days before the election.
Whether the debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee – starting at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time (01:00 GMT) – can really change the election is itself a matter of debate.
Some 45 million Americans are estimated to have joined an unprecedented wave of early voting, and polls show nearly all voters have already made a firm decision. Biden is consistently ahead, with a new national poll from Quinnipiac University placing him at 51% versus Trump’s 41%.
But the Republican’s unpredictability and the ferocity of an election that has seen a country at its most divided in decades means this latest face-to-face showdown in front of a huge live TV audience is going to generate a huge buzz.
Trump, 74, should take inspiration from his long-standing, albeit questionably supported, claim that Biden was corrupt during his vice-presidency under Barack Obama. It’s a tactic that worked in 2016 when a last-minute escalation of her attempts to portray Hillary Clinton as dishonest arguably tipped the narrow election in her favor.
Biden, 77, is expected to focus on Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic that has claimed more than 222,000 lives in the United States and millions more unemployed. Polls so far indicate Americans are far more concerned about the pandemic than Trump’s conspiracy theories.
The Democrat has centered his entire campaign around his image as the most responsible scientific leader.
Trump has shifted to an entirely different message, insisting that the United States is “rounding the curve” of the virus and presenting its own apparently rapid recovery from the infection earlier this month as evidence. On his way to Nashville, Trump tested negative, his chief of staff said on Air Force One.
The organizers of the debate, however, erected a plexiglass sanitary screen between the podiums of the two candidates.
With cases increasing rapidly across the country as winter approaches, the Quinnipiac poll found that nearly six in 10 people believe the coronavirus is out of control.
– Last roll of the dice –
“This is an important last opportunity for candidates to speak to people who did not vote,” said Amy Dacey, executive director of the Sine Institute of Policy and Politics at the American University.
“It’s probably one of the biggest audiences they’ll reach right before the election,” Dacey said.
“I think the Trump team needs to see this as a must in reaching people and convincing people,” said Dacey, former chief executive of the Democratic National Committee.
Kyle Kondik, executive director of the policy newsletter “Sabato’s Crystal Ball” at the Center for Policy at the University of Virginia, called it a last chance to “change the course.”
“The stakes are high for both candidates, however – Biden wants to keep the race where it is, and he doesn’t want to provide late fuel to the Trump campaign.”
– Keep order –
The first 90-minute debate on September 29 turned into an almost uninterrupted flurry of interruptions, insults and near-shouting.
A majority of the disruption came from Trump. At one point, Biden turned to the president and told him to “shut up.”
A second debate scheduled for October 15 was called off after Trump fell with Covid-19 and refused to participate in a virtual debate.
This time around, moderator Kristen Welker, White House correspondent for NBC News, will be armed with a mute button to ensure every man can speak without interruption during the speaking parts.
She selected six topics: the fight against Covid-19, American families, race in America, climate change, national security and leadership.
“I hope he plays by the rules,” Biden said on his way to Nashville.
But there is little guarantee to navigate with ease.
Earlier Thursday, Trump broke a deal with CBS News when he posted raw footage of a still unfair interview with the network, claiming the reporter had been unfair to him.
On Twitter, he then attacked Welker’s integrity, calling her a “radical Democrat” and “no good”.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by GalacticGaming staff and is posted from a syndicated feed.)