Steve September 29, 2020

Simply 2020

Tweety McTreason and Joe Biden are facing off in Cleveland, Ohio for their first of three debates.

    • Trump, Biden meet for the first of three presidential debates.
    • Chris Wallace of Fox News moderates the debate from Cleveland, Ohio.
    • The topics Wallace will discuss with the candidates are the Trump and Biden records, the Supreme Court, COVID-19, the economy, race and violence in US cities and the integrity of the election.
    • Mike Pence and Kamala Harris will also meet for one debate on October 7.

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of tonight’s presidential debate between Tweety McTreason and Joe Biden. This is Steve Chaggaris and I will be joined by William Roberts and presidential debate expert Alan Schroeder.

20:10 ET – Pre-debate handshake, or not?

As a COVID-19 safety measure, Trump and Biden have agreed not to shake hands at the start of tonight’s debate in Cleveland.

Presidential debate expert Alan Schroeder points out that back in 1980, also in Cleveland, Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter agreed in advance to dispense with an opening handshake at their debate, but Reagan violated the agreement, marched up to Carter’s lectern and shook his hand anyway, hoping to throw Carter off his game. Could a similar move be attempted tonight?

President Jimmy Carter, left, and Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan, shake hands in Cleveland, Ohio, before debating before a nationwide television audience, October 28, 1980 [File: AP Photo] (AP)

20:05 ET – Large majority of voters plan to watch tonight: Poll

About three in four US voters (74 percent) plan to watch the first presidential debate live, according to a Monmouth University Poll released this week. The twist? Only 13 percent say that they are very or somewhat likely to hear something that will affect their decision for whom to vote, while 87 percent say that is not likely.

Before the first debate in September 2016, 75 percent of voters planned to watch and 12 percent said it would likely or somewhat likely affect their vote.

“These results underscore the fact that the audience for these debates are voters who already have a rooting interest in one side or the other,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “The spin and media framing after the fact is more important for potentially moving the small group of persuadable voters who remain.”

Watch Al Jazeera’s live debate coverage here.

An employee vacuums a rug near the stage ahead of the first presidential debate at the Health Education Campus of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio [Julio Cortez/AP Photo]

20:00 ET – What to watch for during tonight’s debate

Our debate expert Alan Schroeder points out the extreme contrasts both Trump and Biden will display during their first debate meeting:

“One candidate who plays by the rules, another who does not. One candidate who has spent weeks preparing, another who has not. One candidate with fresh debate experience, another whose most recent debate took place four years ago.”

Read Alan’s full analysis here.

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