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What to expect at Trump and Biden’s first presidential debate: Yahoo News Explains

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On Tuesday, President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden will face off in the first of three scheduled presidential debates. While the two candidates have been trading jabs via the media for years, this will be the first time either has had the opportunity to confront their opponent in person. The debate, which will be moderated by Fox News’ Chris Wallace, is expected to be divided into six 15-minute blocks with questions focusing on specific topics selected by the moderator: “The Trump and Biden Records,” “The Supreme Court,” “COVID-19,” “The Economy,” “Race and Violence in our Cities,” and “The Integrity of the Election.” Yahoo News National Politics Reporter Brittany Shepherd explains what we can expect from the candidates on each topic based on recent statements.

Video Transcript

BRITTANY SHEPHERD: There's a lot going on in America right now. Historic wildfires ravage the west coast. We've got the most active storm season in years on the east coast. And in between, Americans are facing the harsh, and at times violent, reality of reckoning with the racial and cultural realities of our past.

All of this, and so much more, is going on during a pandemic that has already claimed more than 200,000 American lives, shuttered countless businesses, and will probably change the way we work, travel, and socialize for years to come.

But there are two septuagenarian men running for president who would really like your vote so that they can be put in charge of fixing all of that. And on Tuesday night they will debate head on for the very first time. And both campaigns have been hyping it up for some time now.

DONALD TRUMP: Anybody like that, if you can't beat him in a debate, you got a big problem, folks.

JOE BIDEN: I'm going to beat this man like a drum, I'm telling you. I can hardly wait to debate him.

DONALD TRUMP: Maybe he's going to be great at the debate. You know, he's been doing it for 47 years.

JOE BIDEN: I can hardly wait to debate him.

BRITTANY SHEPHERD: Here's what we're expecting to happen and what we'll be looking for. The debate will take place in person, as far as we know, at Case Western University in Cleveland, Ohio. It's going to run in roughly 90 minutes without commercial breaks, and be broadcast on most networks and streamed all over the internet, including the Yahoo News election center. And be moderated by Fox News's Chris Wallace.

Something to note is that President Trump and Wallace have a bit of an uneasy history.

CHRIS WALLACE: Some people were surprised when you agreed to this interview, to sit down with me.

DONALD TRUMP: What are you going to ask?

CHRIS WALLACE: Especially because of some of the mean tweets that you've said about me. Mike Wallace wannabe, nasty and obnoxious.

BRITTANY SHEPHERD: While topics may change due to last minute news dumps, as of now, the debate is expected to be broken into six 15 minute blocks, centered around a topic. Let's look at each of those.

While we're not sure what subject Wallace will lead with, we're certain that questions probing Trump and Biden's records is likely to yield some of the most newsworthy nuggets of the night.

The Trump campaign has a lot to say about Biden's record, and it might get a little nasty. The president is likely to bring up Biden's long tenure in Congress.

DONALD TRUMP: For half a century, Joe Biden shook hands with blue collar workers and then he turned around and immediately stabbed them in the back.

BRITTANY SHEPHERD: And he may even go personal by going after Biden's son, Hunter. Hunter Biden infamously served on the board of a sprawling Ukrainian natural gas firm, Burisma. And it was Trump's full-throated attack, and pressure, for Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden's dealings that sat at the heart of much of Trump's impeachment proceedings.

DONALD TRUMP: I think it'll be brought up in the debate, I think. Where is Hunter? Where is Hunter?

BRITTANY SHEPHERD: Biden, on the other hand, may flip impeachment back on Trump, not to mention the laundry list of other scandals that have plagued Trump and his administration.

JOE BIDEN: He's a fraud.

BRITTANY SHEPHERD: Another large section of the debate is going to be the coronavirus pandemic. Trump is likely to tout an optimistic view that a vaccine will be ready for deployment any day now.

DONALD TRUMP: We remain on track to deliver a vaccine before the end of the year, and maybe even before November 1st.

BRITTANY SHEPHERD: But, there's a lot of evidence to suggest that Americans won't be ready for it.

- The majority of voters doubt a vaccine release this year would have gone through enough testing, according to a new CBS news battleground tracker poll.

BRITTANY SHEPHERD: Biden, on the other hand, will likely say that President Trump's response was too slow, that he's ignored science, and will bring up the audio of Trump telling Bob Woodward he always wanted to play it down.

JOE BIDEN: He knew, and purposely played it down. Worse, he lied to the American people.

BRITTANY SHEPHERD: But Biden saying Trump got it wrong probably won't be the end of it. He's going to need to present some sort of plan. When it comes time to discuss race and violence in our cities, both candidates are going to have to walk a tightrope.

Trump is likely to play to his base by saying things like--

DONALD TRUMP: You may have protesters, but you have some really bad people, too. You have anarchists, and you have the looters, and you have the rioters. You have all types. You have agitators.

BRITTANY SHEPHERD: And may try to balance it out with this old classic.

DONALD TRUMP: I think I've done more for the black community than any other president other than, perhaps, Abraham Lincoln.

BRITTANY SHEPHERD: Trump may also try to get Biden on the defensive, by saying that Biden wants to abolish the police, which isn't true of Biden.

- Do you support defunding the police?

JOE BIDEN: No, I don't support defunding the police.

BRITTANY SHEPHERD: But is a viewpoint of some parts of the progressive wing of the democratic party. This could be a time provided to show that human, understanding side that was played up so much at the DNC, and may focus specifically on the Breonna Taylor case.

JOE BIDEN: It's my heart that goes out to Breonna Taylor's mom. The last thing she needs is to see violence in the streets. So protest peacefully, no violence.

BRITTANY SHEPHERD: Two other scheduled topics are the economy and the Supreme Court. When it comes to the economy, we have a pretty good idea of what Trump is going to say.

DONALD TRUMP: We are considered, far and away, the hottest economy anywhere in the world. And before the plague came in from China, that's where we were going. We were going in a direction like we had never seen-- the most successful economy in the history of our country. Next year will be the single greatest economic year in the history of our country.

BRITTANY SHEPHERD: And Biden is sure to bring up his handling of the 2008 financial crisis.

JOE BIDEN: President Trump inherited an economy from Obama-Biden administration that was given to him, just like he inherited everything else in his life.

BRITTANY SHEPHERD: As for the Supreme Court, this will be the section the candidates have had the least amount of time to prepare for. We already know that Trump plans to fill the vacancy left behind by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

DONALD TRUMP: The final vote should be taken, frankly, before the election. We have plenty of time for that.

BRITTANY SHEPHERD: Biden has a somewhat unique relationship with the Supreme Court. And he was in the Senate for 13 Supreme Court confirmation hearings. And, as you'll remember, was vice president the last time there was a vacancy in the court in an election year, albeit with much more time before the general election.

At that time, Biden pushed for the senate to confirm Merrick Garland, rather than let the next president decide. However, he's since taken a different stance.

JOE BIDEN: Let me be clear that the voters should pick the president, and the president should pick the Justice for the Senate to consider.

BRITTANY SHEPHERD: The final big piece of this debate will be the integrity of the election. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, a historic number of Americans will be voting by mail this year, and President Trump has repeatedly called into question the potential for voter fraud.

DONALD TRUMP: Mail in ballots are a very dangerous thing. They're subject to massive fraud. You're asking for fraud situations. And I think a lot of people cheat with mail in voting.

BRITTANY SHEPHERD: And while there's no credible evidence that voting by mail leads to widespread fraud, on Wednesday, the president made a comment that he might not agree to a peaceful transfer of power should he lose.

- Will you commit here today for a peaceful transfer of power after the election?

DONALD TRUMP: Well, we're going to have to see what happens. You know that I've been complaining very strongly about the ballots. And the ballots are a disaster.

BRITTANY SHEPHERD: Now, Biden has consistently implied that Trump may try to steal the election.

JOE BIDEN: It's my greatest concern, my single greatest concern. This president is going to try to steal this election.

BRITTANY SHEPHERD: So it will be interesting to see if and how he confronts Trump on this issue, face to face. It's hard to conceive of how, exactly, Trump and Biden will square off on Tuesday.

They've been trading jabs for years, but that's easier to do when you're not standing in the same room as someone else. Trump's insistence on hitting rivals with succinct, personal insults could sting the more rambling, less on the offense, Biden.

We'll be watching, reporting, and most importantly, fact checking in real time. So tune in here at Yahoo News on Tuesday night. See you then.