Watch Party: A Preview of This Fall’s Presidential and Vice-Presidential Debates

By Susannah Abbey

It’s that time again—when we curl up in front of the television with popcorn to watch politicians duke it out on the debate stage. Every year is a little bit different from the last, but this year is extraordinarily different. Not only because we won’t get to join friends for watch parties, to hoot and cheer and jeer, but also because these four debates (three for President and one for Vice President) have more riding on them than any other in my lifetime.

The Commission on Presidential Debates has published information about the first presidential debate, which will be held on Tuesday, September 29 at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, OH. The format for the first debate calls for six 15-minute time segments dedicated to topics announced in advance in order to provoke discussion of our country’s most important issues.

Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, moderator of the first 2020 presidential debate, has selected the topics for that debate.

Subject to possible changes because of news developments, the topics for the September 29 debate are as follows, not necessarily to be brought up in this order:

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

The debate starts at 7:00 p.m. Mountain Time and runs for 90 minutes without commercial interruption. Full transcripts will be available on the Commission for Presidential Debates web site.

Stay tuned for these future debates:

Oct 7, 2020Vice presidential debate, The University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT    
Moderator: Susan Page, Washington Bureau Chief, USA Today  

Topics TBD

Format: The debate will be divided into nine segments of approximately 10 minutes each. The moderator will ask an opening question, after which each candidate will have two minutes to respond. The moderator will use the balance of the time in the segment for a deeper discussion of the topic.
Oct 15, 2020Second presidential debate, Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, Miami, FL  

Moderator: Steve Scully, Senior Executive Producer & Political Editor, C-SPAN Networks  

Topics TBD

Format: The second presidential debate will take the form of a town hall meeting, in which the questions will be posed by citizens from the South Florida area. 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.
Oct 22, 2020Third presidential debate, Belmont University, Nashville, TN  

Moderator: Kristen Welker, Co-Anchor Weekend TODAY, White House Correspondent, NBC News  

Topics TBD  

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