President Trump and Joe Biden will be waging their war of words in person when they take the debate stage in Cleveland on Tuesday for the first of three debates before Election Day. 

The two candidates have plenty to discuss. The coronavirus is still a menace nearly seven months into the pandemic, while the deaths of Black people at the hands of police have stirred long-present social unrest. In the past week alone, the U.S. surpassed 200,000 COVID-19 deaths, and Kentucky’s attorney general announced that no officers would be indicted for their roles in the fatal police shooting of Breonna Taylor, again drawing protesters to the streets

Meanwhile, the demise of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has sparked a battle over who will take the women’s rights pioneer’s seat and when the vacancy should be filled. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stated that he’ll hold a vote for President Trump’s pick, despite refusing to do so after Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016, while Barack Obama was president. 

On Saturday, Mr. Trump is expected to announce his nominee, whose confirmation will solidify the court’s 6-3 conservative majority, and potentially threaten the future of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case that established abortion rights nearly 50 years ago. Also at risk is the nation’s health care law, the Affordable Care Act, which is the subject of a Supreme Court case that will be heard a week after Election Day.

Add to all of this the layer of smoke created by unprecedented wildfires on America’s West Coast. The fires, which have burned over three million acres just in California, are breaking records because existing risk factors have been exacerbated by climate change

How to watch the presidential debates:

  • Mobile: CBSN streaming on the CBS News apps CBS News for Android and CBS News for iOS and on 
  • On TV: CBS television affiliates or on CBSN streaming on Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV and Xbox One

First debate: September 29

All debates will begin at 9 p.m. ET and run for 90 minutes without commercial interruption, according to the Commission on Presidential Debates.

Location: Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland

Moderator: “Fox News Sunday” anchor Chris Wallace. 

Format: The commission said that this debate will be “divided into six segments of approximately 15 minutes each.” Wallace has chosen six topics, subject to change:

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

The candidates, both of whom are known for straying off topic, have been instructed to stick to the subject of the question “in order to encourage deep discussion of the leading issues facing the country.” Topics for the other debates have yet to be announced. 

According to CPD, Wallace 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,” a press release from CPD said. 

Vice presidential debate: October 7 

The sole vice presidential debate will take place on Wednesday, October 7, between Democratic Senator Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence.

Location: The University of Utah, Salt Lake City

Moderator: Susan Page of USA Today  

Format: Also 90 minutes in length, Harris and Pence will tackle nine segments of approximately 10 minutes each. “The moderator will ask an opening question, after which each candidate will have two minutes to respond,” according to CPD. “The moderator will use the balance of the time in the segment for a deeper discussion of the topic.”

Harris’ long career as a prosecutor has brought her criticism, but also prepared her well for the debate stage. She made headlines during the Democratic presidential debates for giving as good as she got, even blasting the man who is now at the top of the ticket, Joe Biden.

Vice President Pence said on Fox News’ “Hannity” in August that he was excited about debating Harris. “I think she is a skilled debater, but I can’t wait to get to Salt Lake City and be on the stage — whether to compare Joe Biden’s nearly 50 years in public life, the agenda of the radical left, the agenda that she’s embraced throughout her political career — with the results of this president and this administration,” Pence told host Sean Hannity.

Second presidential debate: October 15

The second presidential debate will take place a week later on Thursday October 15. 

Location: Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, Miami

Moderator: Steve Scully of C-SPAN 

Format: This debate will be a town-hall style event.

“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,” according to CPD. “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: October 22

The third and final debate will take place on October 22, less than two weeks before Election Day. 

Location: Belmont University, Nashville

Moderator: Kristen Welker, the debate series’ only woman journalist, is a White House Correspondent for NBC News, as well as co-anchor of “Weekend TODAY.”

Format: The format will be identical to the first presidential debate

“As always, the moderators alone will select the questions to be asked, which are not known to the CPD or to the candidates,” according to CPD. “The moderators will have the ability both to extend the segments and to ensure that the candidates have equal speaking time. While the focus will properly be on the candidates, the moderator will regulate the conversation so that thoughtful and substantive exchanges occur.”

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