Presidential debate to focus on coronavirus, Supreme Court

President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden will square off in Cleveland on Tuesday in the first presidential debate of the 2020 election.

The debate, which will be moderated by Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, will take place against the backdrop of an unconventional campaign dominated for months by the coronavirus pandemic and protests against racism and police brutality. These questions rank among the topics that will be discussed during the debatewhich will also cover the battle for the Supreme Court vacancy following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the integrity of the election.

You can follow live video and analysis of the debate on Here’s what you need to know about some of these key topics:

The coronavirus pandemic has dominated the presidential election, with Americans still reeling from the outbreak and its impact on daily life. Mr. Biden, the Democratic nominee, has made Mr. Trump’s handling of the virus the centerpiece of his campaign, while the Republican president has sought to downplay its consequences.


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Polls have consistently shown that a majority of Americans disapprove of Mr. Trump’s response to the pandemic. In recent weeks, Mr. Trump’s comments to reporter Bob Woodward that he intentionally downplayed the virus at the start of the pandemic to avoid inciting panic have also come into focus.

Mr Biden said the comments are proof that Mr Trump “knowingly and willfully lied about the threat he posed to the country for months”.

On May 25, the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police sparked nationwide protests against racism and police brutality. Other high-profile police shootings of black men and women, like those of Jacob Blake and Breonna Taylor, kept the issue front and center in the months leading up to the election.

Mr Trump reacted to the violence accompanying some of the protests by presenting himself as the “president of law and order”. Mr. Biden has accused Mr. Trump of sowing racial divisions and inciting violence. He also called for police reform and racial justice. Mr. Trump signed an executive order encouraging police departments to improve training, but has aligned himself closely with law enforcement.

The death of liberal Justice Ginsburg injected the Supreme Court into the election, with both campaigns seeing the vacancy as an opportunity to energize their party bases.

Mr Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the seat. Mr Biden said the seat is expected to remain vacant until after the election, underscoring Republican opposition to President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court ahead of the 2016 election.

Mr Biden also linked the vacancy to issues such as health care and access to abortion, while Mr Trump insisted the nine justices will be needed if the election outcome is uncertain in November. “I think it will end up in the Supreme Court,” Trump said.

Mr Trump is getting his highest ratings from voters on the economy, even though his approval ratings have fallen amid the virus. Mr Biden pointed to the economic disruption caused by the pandemic in a bid to undermine the president’s position and touted his own plans to revitalize the economy.

Mr Trump is also likely to face questions about a New York Times report that he paid $750 a year in federal income tax in 2016 and 2017, and no income tax in 10 of the previous 15 years. The president disputed the report and declined to say how much he paid in taxes.

As the debate approached, Mr. Biden stepped up his outreach to working-class white voters – a core constituency of Mr. Trump – by playing on his own blue-collar roots and claiming the president had not been at height. the promises he made in 2016. “The truth is, he never really lived up to us,” Mr Biden said. Mr. Trump claimed that Mr. Biden, long seen as a centrist party, would bring socialism to America’s doorstep.

How to watch and what to know

Tuesday’s debate is scheduled to begin at 9 p.m. EDT and last 90 minutes. You can stream it here on, and it will also air live on cable broadcast and news channels. Our team of WSJ reporters in Washington and across the country will provide live analysis, beginning around 8 p.m. Tuesday evening.

With Wisconsin becoming a battleground state in the 2020 election, the WSJ’s John McCormick sat down with voters from all political backgrounds to hear about the issues they believe matter most. Photo illustration: Laura Kammermann/WSJ

Write to Sabrina Siddiqui at [email protected]

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