US presidential debate live updates: Trump, Biden’s first clash

  • Trump, Biden meet for the first of three presidential debates.
  • Chris Wallace of Fox News moderates the debate from Cleveland, Ohio.
  • The topics Wallace will discuss with the candidates are the Trump and Biden records, the Supreme Court, COVID-19, the economy, race and violence in US cities and the integrity of the election.
  • Mike Pence and Kamala Harris will also meet for one debate on October 7.

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of tonight’s presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. This is Steve Chaggaris and I will be joined by William Roberts and presidential debate expert Alan Schroeder.

08:50 PM – Social distancing on stage


Because of the need to distance for COVID-19, the debaters’ lecterns will be spaced further apart than normal, presidential debate expert Alan Schroeder points out. This means the director may find it difficult to take a 2-shot that shows both candidates inside the same frame. As a result, look for more split-screens with the debaters appearing in separate boxes.

08:30 PM – Trump and Biden’s invited guests

Because of coronavirus precautions, the in-person audience will be small at tonight’s debate – around 80 people total. Aside from campaign staff, family and a few journalists, the campaigns have each invited a few guests.

Among Trump’s guests are Alice Marie Johnson, an advocate for criminal justice reform that Trump pardoned last month; UFC fighter Colby Covington and Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.

Biden’s guests include Kristin Urquiza, who lost her father to COVID-19 in June and criticized Trump at the Democratic National Convention last month; Ohio clothing shop owner Gurnee Green and Ohio union steelworker James Evanoff Jr.

20:15 ET – Social media debate disinformation debunked, a non-partisan project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, dug into claims made about Biden on Facebook and Twitter leading up to tonight’s debate. They concluded that claims that Joe Biden “got tonight’s debate questions in advance” and that he will be wearing an earpiece are baseless.

20:10 ET – Pre-debate handshake, or not?

As a COVID-19 safety measure, Trump and Biden have agreed not to shake hands at the start of tonight’s debate in Cleveland.

Presidential debate expert Alan Schroeder points out that back in 1980, also in Cleveland, Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter agreed in advance to dispense with an opening handshake at their debate, but Reagan violated the agreement, marched up to Carter’s lectern and shook his hand anyway, hoping to throw Carter off his game. Could a similar move be attempted tonight?

20:05 ET – Large majority of voters plan to watch tonight: Poll

About three in four US voters (74 percent) plan to watch the first presidential debate live, according to a Monmouth University Poll released this week. The twist? Only 13 percent say that they are very or somewhat likely to hear something that will affect their decision for whom to vote, while 87 percent say that is not likely.

Before the first debate in September 2016, 75 percent of voters planned to watch and 12 percent said it would likely or somewhat likely affect their vote.

“These results underscore the fact that the audience for these debates are voters who already have a rooting interest in one side or the other,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “The spin and media framing after the fact is more important for potentially moving the small group of persuadable voters who remain.”

Watch Al Jazeera’s live debate coverage here.

20:00 ET – What to watch for during tonight’s debate

Our debate expert Alan Schroeder points out the extreme contrasts both Trump and Biden will display during their first debate meeting:

“One candidate who plays by the rules, another who does not. One candidate who has spent weeks preparing, another who has not. One candidate with fresh debate experience, another whose most recent debate took place four years ago.”

Read Alan’s full analysis here.

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