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How, Where, and When to Watch the 2020 Presidential Debates

Ready to rumble? Photo: Getty Images

With weeks to go before a pivotal presidential election, the spooky season is upon us once again: The specter of several presidential debates (and also a vice presidential one!) is rising from the dust to frighten and alarm anew. The 2020 debate cycle begins on September 29, when Democratic candidate Joe Biden will face off against current president Donald Trump for the first time.

As the nation inches ever closer to November 3 election, Trump has been churning up confusion as to whether or not we would see presidential debates at all. In June, the president claimed, during a Fox News town hall, that his then-presumptive opponent would be a no-show because of the coronavirus pandemic. At the time, Biden has already guaranteed the Commission on Presidential Debates, at length and in writing and before he had even been officially received the Democratic nomination, that he accepted its debate schedule and terms. Trump, meanwhile, has seemingly been laying the groundwork to bow out of the debates for months, and has recently taken to fussing over the moderators — Trump really wanted Fox News anchors or conservative pundits, but was uniformly denied— and demanding a fourth matchup for no reason.

It’s presently unclear whether or not Trump has formally committed to the commission’s schedule, although his aides say he has a preparation strategy and it is to actively do nothing, so it seems like he plans to show up? Meaning the 2020 presidential debates are really happening: here’s how and when to watch.

How will presidential debates even work with COVID-19?

According to the Washington Post, the commission has not yet elaborated on its plans for the debate stage, outside of winnowing the number of moderators down to one per night. As to whether or not the candidates will be there in person or beam in via video conference, the commission has said only that it will stick to CDC guidelines. For now, it’s TBD on whether or not we’ll see a live debate or a live audience, although the Post reports that two university venues (Notre Dame and the University of Michigan) already backed out over coronavirus concerns on campus. Still, it seems reasonable to expect that social distancing restrictions will at least prevent Trump from stalking his opponent, sharklike, around the stage.

When is the first presidential debate?

When: Tuesday, September 29, from 9 to 10:30 p.m. ET.

Where: Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.

Moderated by: Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday.

How to watch: Debates will be available for streaming on C-SPAN, and most major news networks will air them as well.

When is the second presidential debate?

When: Thursday, October 15, from 9 to 10:30 p.m. ET.

Where: Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami.

Moderated by: C-SPAN political editor Steve Scully.

How to watch: Debates will be available for streaming on C-SPAN, and most major news networks will air them as well.

When is the third presidential debate?

When: Thursday, October 22, from 9 to 10:30 p.m. EST.

Where: Belmont University in Nashville.

Moderated by: NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker.

How to watch: Debates will be available for streaming on C-SPAN, and most major news networks will air them as well.

When is the vice-presidential debate?

Vice-presidents must debate, too, and the face-off between Kamala Harris (current California senator, former prosecutor) and Mike Pence (current vice-president, former engineer of a totally avoidable public-health crisis) promises to be spicy, not least because Pence is unaccustomed to addressing women unchaperoned and one-on-one.

When: Wednesday, October 7, from 9 to 10:30 p.m. EST.

Where: The University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

Moderated by: USA Today Washington Bureau Chief Susan Page.

How to watch: Debates will be available for streaming on C-SPAN, and most major news networks will air them as well.

The 2020 Presidential Debates Are Nearly Upon Us