WASHINGTON – One of the most anticipated events of the 2020 campaign began with little fanfare.
Forgoing the traditional pre-debate handshake because of COVID-19, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden walked to their separate lecterns and briefly acknowledged each other.
“How you doing, man?” Biden asked Trump.
“I’m well,” Trump responded.
Tonight may be the first time since George HW. Bush’s funeral in 2018 that the two competitors have been in the same room.
But there was no time for chit chat.
“Gentleman, a lot of people have been waiting for this night, so let’s get going,” moderator Chris Wallace said, before launching into the first question – about Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.
Both campaigns had agreed to ditch the conventional handshake greeting as well as opening statements, according to Peter Eyre, a senior adviser to the Commission on Presidential Debates. The moderator, Chris Wallace, will also forgo an opening statement and pose the first question to Trump, Eyres said.
The topics, outlined by Wallace, will include both candidates' records, the Supreme Court, the coronavirus, the economy, race and violence in U.S. cities and election integrity. A New York Times investigation into the president's tax records, which found he paid little to no federal income tax over the last two decades and $750 the year he was elected, is also bound to come up.
Unlike past presidential debates, which attract crowds of around 900 people, the audience Tuesday is limited to around 70 people who are required to wear masks and were tested for COVID-19 beforehand, according to the Commission on Presidential Debates.
The Biden campaign announced earlier Tuesday that the former vice president invited two Ohioans as his personal guests, including union steel worker James Evanoff Jr. and Gurnee Green, a clothing shop owner.
Among the president's guest list is UFC fighter Colby Covington, his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani as well as his adult children Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Tiffany Trump and their spouses.
Also absent will be the "spin room," where campaign surrogates give interviews to crowds of journalists as they make their case on why their candidate won the debate.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Presidential debate: Trump, Biden give socially distant greeting