White House staffers gathered in a line along the White House South Lawn on Tuesday and cheered as President Donald Trump departed for Cleveland, Ohio to attend the first 2020 presidential debate against Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
A crowd of Trump administration employees stood behind a white rope cheering and waving with flags as the president and first lady Melania Trump walked by ahead of their departure.
In a few hours, Trump is expected to face the most direct challenge of his job performance as president and handling of the coronavirus in the first of three debates against his Democratic opponent.
An usual occurrence for a presidential departure: Hundreds of White House staffers have gathered on the South Lawn, many holding flags, for Trumpâs imminent departure for Cleveland for the debate. pic.twitter.com/spVwhpSb5S
— Geoff Bennett (@GeoffRBennett) September 29, 2020
Fox News anchor Chris Wallace will moderate the live event to an in-person crowd of around 70 people, a much smaller audience compared to previous debates, due to the pandemic.
A new Monmouth University poll found that 74 percent of voters plan on tuning in to watch the heated showdown. However, an overwhelming majority of those who plan to watch—87 percent—doubt the debate will change their minds about who to vote for on Election Day.
According to the Commission on Presidential Debates, topics that will be covered tonight include Trump and Biden’s voting records, the Economy, the Supreme Court and COVID, as well as race and violence in American cities. Candidates will have roughly two minutes to answer their questions, with each segment lasting around 15 minutes.
In recent weeks, the two candidates have taken vastly different approaches to preparing for the debate. With 35 days until November 3, Trump has been grinding out back-to-back in-person campaign rallies and events in key swing states. While earlier reports indicated that he had decided to skip formal debate preparations, Trump on Sunday told reporters that former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie have been helping him prepare “a little.”
“President Trump prepares for debates every day by being president and building an excellent record to run on for reelection,” Trump campaign spokesperson Tim Murtaugh told CNBC.
Biden wound down campaign events last Thursday to ramp up debate preparation. According to the Associated Press, the former vice president has participated in mock debate sessions, with senior campaign adviser Bob Bauer playing the role of Trump. Bauer didn’t dress up as the president, but he has been imitating his unique style and expected strategy by hurling insults and strange digressions at Biden.
Biden laid out his strategy on MSNBC over the weekend, revealing that he will be taking the fight to Trump.
“I’m prepared to go out and make my case as to why I think he’s failed and why I think the answers I have to proceed will help the American people, the American economy and make us safer internationally,” the former vice president said.
Newsweek reached out to the Biden and Trump campaign for comment.
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Video: What to expect as Trump and Biden face off in first debate (NBC News)