Election 2020: Trump, Biden prepare for first debate in Cleveland

CLEVELAND — Ohio will be back in the political spotlight this week with the first presidential debate set for Cleveland on Tuesday night.

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No audience will be permitted in the theater at Case Western Reserve University because of concerns about spreading the coronavirus but millions of voters are expected to watch it on live TV.

It follows President Donald Trump’s Dayton rally last week in which he talked at length about how he has helped Ohio and the nation’s economy. Biden plans on a train tour of eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania on Wednesday. Marc Lotter, director of strategic communications for the Trump Re-Election Campaign, told News Center 7 the president is anxious to face Democratic challenger Joe Biden in the debate.

Trump is not preparing for the event with a traditional mock debate complete with a stand-in for Biden. Lotter said it is unnecessary.

“He takes very tough questions from a very hostile national media every single day, multiple times a day on many occasions and the amount of material he consumes from his briefings obviously many sources and he has to make a lot of difficult decisions at all times. I think that is a pretty good preparation for the debate,” Lotter said.

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The Biden camp is taking a more traditional approach. Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper, in a pre-debate news conference online, told reporters the president’s tax problems, as detailed in the New York Times on Sunday and Monday, will be a big issue in the debate even if it is not on the official agenda.

“Now we know, despite years of him trying to hide the truth, Trump paid just $750 in the first year he was president. What a disgrace. Trump hasn’t just lied about his taxes, he has lied about health care too,” Pepper said. He went on to describe how Trump’s attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act will result in tens of thousands of Ohioans losing their health care coverage.

Tuesday’s 90-minute debate will be broken into six segments, with each one focused on a different topic. Here is the list of topics chosen by moderator Chris Wallace, as announced by the Commission on Presidential Debates:

The Trump and Biden Records

The Supreme Court


The Economy

Race and Violence in our Cities

The Integrity of the Election

The debate is scheduled from 9 p.m. until 10:30 p.m. with analysis from the TV networks expected to run until 11 p.m.

News Center 7 will broadcast the entire event on WHIO-TV and whio.com, followed by news coverage live from Cleveland at 11 p.m.

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