Here’s what you need to know for the first 2020 presidential election debate

National News

In this combination photo, president Donald Trump, left, speaks at a news conference on Aug. 11, 2020, in Washington and Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks in Wilmington, Del. on Aug. 13, 2020. (AP Photo)

(NEXSTAR) – The first debate of the presidential race between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden is less than a week away.

The first of three debates between the two men will be held on September 29th at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, beginning at 9 p.m. Eastern time.

The 90-minute event will be broken up into 15-minute segments on topics including the candidates’ records, the future of the Supreme Court, COVID-19 policy, the economy, race relations and the integrity of the election, according to the Commission on Presidential Debates. The topics have been selected by the moderator, Fox News’ Chris Wallace. All major networks and cable news networks are expected to cover the debate.

The vice presidential debate will follow from Salt Lake City on October 7th. The remaining presidential forums will be held on October 15th in Miami and 22nd in Nashville.

Joe Biden has retained a relatively stable national polling lead for months leading up to the televised exchange, but several other dynamics are at play that could swing polling. Here’s a brief summary of where the polls stand a week before the first debate:

  • According to Real Clear Politics’ polling average, Biden’s lead has slightly increased over the past week, stretching to 7.1 percent lead on average as of Wednesday. This is within a consistent range for the summer, but notably, Biden now stands at over 50 percent of the potential electorate, meaning he would likely win the popular vote without adding any of the seven percent of respondents that remain undecided.
  • FiveThirtyEight’s election simulator similarly shows the odds edging toward Biden this week, with 77 out of 100 possible scenarios favoring Biden in their latest modeling. Last week that number was 76.
  • The New York Time’s Upshot project offers some optimism for both sides. In recent postings, NYT staff suggest a repeat of state-level polling inaccuracies in Trump’s favor at the same size as 2016 could send the president back to the Oval Office. However, the same data reveals that Biden leading in most key swing states, even suggesting Georgia and Iowa are in play for the former VP.
  • Many see the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the most likely development to disrupt the relative stability of the polling averages. The death of the 87-year-old last week, and the resulting Supreme Court battle, will not be fully reflected for a few more weeks and a hurried confirmation fight could bring poll instability all the way up to election day.
  • It’s not at all clear how the Republican push to fill the seat will move the electorate. Republicans have signaled that they believe filling the seat could energize the base and improve turnout. At the same time, the Democratic fundraising platform ActBlue has reported record donations (well over $100 million) since RBG’s death, signaling plenty of energy on the other side of the electorate.

President Trump is expected to nominate his SCOTUS pick this Saturday, setting off the formal confirmation fight and injecting a new plotline that could significantly sway the polls and perhaps even the election.

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