Three, along with a vice presidential debate.
They’re all at 9 p.m. ET. They’ll all last approximately 90 minutes and run without commercials on networks and cable news outlets.
Where can they be seen?
When and where will they occur?
- First presidential debate — Tuesday, September 29, at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio
- Vice presidential debate — Wednesday, October 7, at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah
- Second presidential debate (a town hall) — Thursday, October 15, at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami
- Third presidential debate is Thursday, October 22, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee
Are those states significant this year?
Florida and Ohio are key battleground states this year and every recent election year. Utah and Tennessee are reliably in President Donald Trump’s column, according to CNN’s assessment.
Who will moderate the debates?
First presidential debate – Chris Wallace of Fox News
Vice presidential debate – Susan Page of USA Today
Second presidential debate (the town hall) – Steve Scully of C-SPAN
Third presidential debate – Kristen Welker of NBC News
What do we know about the format of the debates?
First presidential debate — Six segments of approximately 15 minutes each
From debates.org: “The moderator 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.”
Vice presidential debate — Nine segments of approximately 10 minutes each
The commission’s note on this debate’s format is the same as the first debate, except it omits the line: “Candidates will then have an opportunity to respond to each other.”
Second presidential debate — This is a town hall featuring questions posed by members of an audience of citizens from the South Florida area
From debates.org: “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 — Six segments of approximately 15 minutes each
The format will be the same as the first debate, according to debates.org.
What do we know about the topics that will be discussed?
The first moderator, Chris Wallace of Fox News, released a list of six general subject areas.
- The Trump and Biden Records
- The Supreme Court
- The Economy
- Race and Violence in our Cities
- The Integrity of the Election
Of course, he says they’re subject to change based on news developments and won’t necessarily come in this order.
We’ll learn more about the other debates as they draw closer.
Are there points for doing well?
A grace note or a well-delivered one liner can be very effective, too.
But it was Ronald Reagan, the former actor, who put on the master class.
It was their only debate and it was a week before Election Day.
Are candidates required to debate?
Have there always been debates?
Those debates are hard to imagine in today’s media. Each man got an hour for an opening statement. Then they each got a half hour to rebut.
The first televised debates took place in 1960 and Nixon did poorly in that format, which probably helped contribute to a lack of debates in the ’64, ’68 and ’72 election years. Last-minute and fraught negotiations preceded the debates in ’76, ’80 and ’84, according to the Commission on Presidential Debates.
Who organizes these debates?
The Commission on Presidential Debates has organized every general election debate since the 1988 general election. (Primary debates are a different matter and often organized by news networks working with political parties).
It’s got a bipartisan board and set of co-chairs. The chairman, Frank Fahrenkopf, is a co-founder of the commission and was RNC chairman in the 1980s. Dorothy Ridings is a former president of the League of Women Voters and an executive at philanthropic organizations. Kenneth Wollack is a former president of the National Democratic Institute.
What will it look like?
Probably a lot like it always looks. The debates have used the same backgrounds since 1988. I’m dying to see if they change it this year.
Do people watch these things?
That Clinton/Trump debate set a new record, eclipsing the 80 million people who watched Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter in their 1980 debate. It was also well above debates between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.
Americans who don’t watch live will still hear about the debate from news coverage and in their social media feeds after the fact.
Do the debates affect the outcome of the election?
Separately, a bad debate performance can, in hindsight be blamed for a razor-thin loss.
Further complicating things this year is that a large portion of the country is voting early — either in person or by mail — and will cast their votes before debate season ends.
What will be remembered from these debates?
Saturday Night Live’s recreation of whatever happens can eclipse the debate itself, as it did with Sarah Palin and Tina Fey in 2008 and the question over whether you can see Russia from Alaska.