News and Commentary

Moderator Announces Topics for First Presidential Debate

Supreme Court, COVID-19, Race and Violence among topics
US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during the final presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read
SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, the moderator of the first 2020 presidential debate, has announced the topics for the head-to-head battle between President Trump and Joe Biden.

“The topics for the September 29 debate are as follows, not necessarily to be brought up in this order,” the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) announced on Tuesday.

  • The Trump and Biden Records
  • The Supreme Court
  • Covid-19
  • The Economy
  • Race and Violence in our Cities
  • The Integrity of the Election

All debates start at 9:00 p.m. ET and run for 90 minutes with no commercials. Each topic will be debated for 15 minutes in the first faceoff.

The second debate will be town-hall style and will be moderated by C-SPAN’s Steve Scully in Miami on Oct. 15. The final debate will be moderated by Kristen Welker of NBC and will take place in Nashville on Oct. 22.

For the one vice presidential debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), USA Today’s Susan Page will moderate the event, which will take place in Salt Lake City on Oct. 7.

“We are grateful to these experienced journalists, who will help ensure that the general election presidential debates continue to serve their unique educational purpose of helping the public learn about the candidates. Each individual brings great professionalism to moderating and understands that the purpose of the 2020 debate formats is to facilitate an in-depth discussion of major topics,” Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr., Dorothy S. Ridings, and Kenneth Wollack, co-chairs of the non-partisan CPD said in a statement.

Wallace expressed frustration last month, saying Biden “continues to lead with what I’ll call the basement strategy. I don’t think you can hide from now until Election Day. I just…don’t think it’s possible.” He also said it was “the damnedest thing I’ve ever seen” — and he’s been covering politics a long time.

But Wallace has also attacked Trump, saying in December that he believes Trump “is engaged in the most direct sustained assault on freedom of the press in our history.”

Here’s the format for each debate as announced by the CPD earlier this month:

First presidential debate

The debate will be divided into six segments of approximately 15 minutes each on major topics to be selected by the moderator and announced at least one week before the debate.

The moderator will open each segment with a question, after which each candidate will have two minutes to respond. Candidates will then have an opportunity to respond to each other. The moderator will use the balance of the time in the segment for a deeper discussion of the topic.

Vice presidential debate

The debate will be divided into nine segments of approximately 10 minutes each. The moderator will ask an opening question, after which each candidate will have two minutes to respond. The moderator will use the balance of the time in the segment for a deeper discussion of the topic.

Second presidential debate

The second presidential debate will take the form of a town meeting, in which the questions will be posed by citizens from the South Florida area. The candidates will have two minutes to respond to each question and there will be an additional minute for the moderator to facilitate further discussion. The town meeting participants will be uncommitted voters selected under the supervision of Dr. Frank Newport, Senior Scientist, Gallup.

Third presidential debate

The format for the debate will be identical to the first presidential debate.

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