U.S. President Donald Trump squares off against Democratic challenger Joe Biden on Thursday in what promises to be a bruise final debate with less than two weeks left in the White House fight. After the last TV debate was marred by serial interruptions and incomprehensible cross-talk, tonight’s moderator will have the power to mute the candidates’ microphones.
Follow our live blog of the debate on FRANCE 24, starting at. 21 local time.
The debate in the southern city of Nashville comes during the final sprint to the November 3 election amid fears that a delayed or unclear result on election night could trigger weeks of legal battles or protests.
Trump has intensified his attacks on Biden as he struggles to hold on to the White House after four tumultuous years.
To cut down on the interruptions that marked the last debate, during the two minutes that each candidate has to answer the moderator’s questions, only their microphone is live.
Trump has already knocked out the new rules.
“I think that dumbness is very unfair, and I think it’s very bad,” Trump said this week, branding debate moderator Kristen Welker as a “radical democrat.”
Trump, 74, has hit several rallies a day as he seeks to shoot up enthusiasm for his candidacy, as most polls show Biden leading the race.
Former President Barack Obama stumped for his former vice president for the first time Wednesday, urging Democrats not to be lulled into complacency by Biden’s leadership in the polls.
He issued a strong reminder of 2016 when most polls showed Democrat Hillary Clinton was only the favorite for her and her supporters to be shocked by a Trump victory on election day.
“We can not be complacent. I do not care about the votes,” Obama told a run-in rally in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, one of a handful of battlefield states expected to decide the election.
“There were a whole series of polls last time. It did not work. Because a whole bunch of people stayed home. And became lazy and complacent. Not this time. Not by this election.”
Obama told supporters there was too much at stake to have another four years with Trump at the helm of the nation and tried to contrast his successor – a real estate mogul and former reality TV star – with Biden, a lawyer with an education and career as politicians.
The effect of Covid-19
Trump, for his part, visited North Carolina, another of the battlefield states, on Wednesday as he tried to regain enthusiasm four years ago.
Trump’s campaign statement has included erroneously telling Americans that the coronavirus outbreak is almost over, and launching attacks on Biden’s son Hunter for his previous drug use or business dealings in Ukraine. A Republican-led Senate inquiry into Hunter Biden last month concluded finding nothing illegal.
The final debate comes a day after the number of reported coronavirus deaths in the United States peaked in two months, suggesting that the pandemic gained fresh momentum as cooler weather began. U.S. Covid-19 deaths averaged approx. 700 a day for much of October, before rising to 1,237 on Wednesday, according to a Reuters analysis, the most since 19 August.
Coronavirus has killed more than 220,000 people in the United States and ravaged the world’s largest economy, leading to harsh criticism of the president’s handling of the crisis. Thousands are fighting for rent among widespread layoffs in certain sectors as Democrats and Republicans struggle to find common ground for a new coronavirus virus relief package. An agreement is unlikely to be reached before the election under fierce opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate.
A Quinnipiac University poll of likely voters released Wednesday gave Biden a 51-43 lead in Pennsylvania, which Trump won by a narrow margin in 2016. Trump also follows Biden in the national polls, and another Quinnipiac vote spelled out potential problems for his hope of re-election.
The vote had the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates in a 47-47 dead heat in Texas, a state that Trump won by nine points four years ago and which has not voted for a Democrat since Jimmy Carter in 1976.
More than 40 million Americans have already voted, according to the U.S. election project at the University of Florida, nearly 30 percent of total turnout in 2016.
( Jowharwith AFP and REUTERS)