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WATCH: Trump, Biden square off in first presidential debate

President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden went head to head for the first time Sept. 29 in the first presidential debate of the general election. The incumbent and his Democratic challenger shared the stage at Case Western University in Cleveland in front of moderator Chris Wallace, of Fox News, but following public health guidelines, the dramatically scaled-down audience will be distanced and masked.

The 90-minute debate, starting at 9 p.m. EDT, was split into six 15-minute segments, with no ad breaks. They will focus on: Trump’s and Biden’s records, the Supreme Court, COVID-19, the economy, race and violence in U.S. cities, and the integrity of the election. 

Watch special coverage of the first presidential debate in the player above.

Democrats have already criticized the schedule, as it leaves out climate change, which a recent PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll found to be the number one issue among Democratic voters, and as the “race and violence” segment seems to conflate two different issues. 

This is the first of three presidential debates. The second will take place Oct. 15 in Miami, moderated by C-SPAN political editor Steve Scully, and be a town hall format, with candidates taking questions from voters. The third debate will take place Oct. 22 at Belmont University in Nashville, moderated by NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker, returning to the six-segment format of the first debate. 

A single vice presidential debate will also take place between Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., on Oct. 7 at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. 

PBS NewsHour will show all the debates live on air and streaming online.

Debate night schedule 

Tune in at 6 p.m. EDT to watch the NewsHour. Digital coverage starts at 7 p.m. with segments on key election issues. 

At 8 p.m., senior political reporter Daniel Bush will host a debate pre-show featuring correspondents Lisa Desjardins and Yamiche Alcindor reporting the latest on the candidates. He will also be talking to Eddie Glaude, Jr., chair of the Department of African American Studies at Princeton University, and senior political reporter of PBS Wisconsin, Zac Schultz, about the ongoing protests over police violence and racial justice, and with Dahlia Lithwick, the senior legal correspondent at Slate, about the fight over filling the Supreme Court vacancy, and answering viewer questions.  

At 9 p.m. the debate kicks off, and NewsHour correspondents, producers and reporters will be live-tweeting to provide insights and analysis. When the debate ends around 10:30 p.m., stay tuned for continuing coverage and post-show analysis on air and online. Then at 11 p.m., correspondent Amna Nawaz will host a live, digital-only voter panel talking to voters about their reactions to the debate.

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