With many of the usual staples of presidential campaign politics – like rallies, town halls, fundraisers and arenas packed with convention delegates – scrapped because of the coronavirus pandemic, this fall's presidential debates likely will take on outsized importance.
The debates – long a public service to provide voters a look at how the candidates match up on the issues and against each other – have also become prime-time media spectacles.
But the debates are rarely without controversy – and this time around is no exception, as President Trump has unsuccessfully sought a fourth debate with Democratic challenger Joe Biden for early September, before many states start sending out absentee ballots to voters.
- First presidential debate: Sept. 29 in Cleveland
- Vice presidential debate: Oct. 7 in Salt Lake City
- Second presidential debate: Oct. 15 in Miami
- Third presidential debate: Oct. 22 in Nashville
The nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) – which has organized and conducted the presidential and vice presidential general election debates for more than three decades – turned down the Trump re-election campaign’s formal request, but did say it would “consider” adding an additional encounter between the president and Biden to the three already scheduled if both candidates agree.
Following the tradition of the past couple of election cycles, there will be three presidential debates and one between the vice presidential nominees. All the debates will be 90 minutes in length, and will run from 9 p.m.-10:30 p.m. ET without commercial breaks. Details concerning the sensitive question of having live audience members -- and how social distancing rules will be carried out -- are still being worked out amid the pandemic.
As of now, here’s how the debates shape up.
First presidential debate: Sept. 29 in Cleveland
The first presidential debate between Trump and former Vice President Biden will be hosted by Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio. In 2004, the school was the site of the vice presidential showdown between then-Vice President Dick Cheney and Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. John Edwards. The Cleveland Clinic is serving as the CPD’s health security adviser for all four debates this autumn.
Notre Dame University in South Bend, Ind., was the original host for the first debate but withdrew in July due to health concerns over holding a large in-person gathering amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Vice presidential debate: Oct. 7 in Salt Lake City
Second presidential debate: Oct. 15 in Miami
The second presidential debate will be held at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, Fla. The University of Michigan – which was the original host of the second debate – withdrew in June due to health concerns amid the pandemic.
Third presidential debate: Oct. 22 in Nashville
The third presidential debate will be held at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. The school was the site of a presidential debate in 2008 between then-Sens. Barack Obama of Illinois and John McCain of Arizona.