President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden faced off in a debate for the final time before Election Day. Since the last time the two debated in late September, Trump has recovered from coronavirus, the second debate was canceled after Trump refused to do it virtually, and Biden has maintained a robust lead in national polls while enjoying smaller but also consistent advantages in swing-state surveys. The rules were different this time, as well. One candidate's microphone was muted for the first two minutes of each segment to allow the other an uninterrupted answer.
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The second and final debate between Trump and Biden wasn't as fiery or messy as the first one, but it did have its sharp moments.
Here are the key moments from the debate. – Mike Calia
The future of Social Security — and whether a permanent payroll tax cut would hurt the program — briefly became a sticking point between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden at Thursday night's debate.
"This is the guy that the actuary of Social Security said, if in fact he continues his plan to withhold the tax on Social Security, Social Security will be bankrupt by 2023 with no way to make up for it," Biden said.
Trump has implemented a temporary payroll tax deferral through the end of the year to help increase workers' paychecks. Based on Trump's executive order, those taxes will have to be paid back next year.
But the president has said he wants to make the change permanent. While the White House has said that means forgiving the unpaid taxes, Social Security advocates worry he means permanent payroll tax cuts.
In August, Senate leaders asked Social Security Chief Actuary Stephen Goss to evaluate how a permanent payroll tax cut would affect the program's funds.
Goss' assessment was that it could deplete the program's funding by mid-2023, provided the changes took effect for earnings starting on Jan. 1, 2021.
Trump, in turn, attacked Biden's record on Social Security. "He tried to hurt Social Security years ago," Trump said.
The debate comments drew a quick response from Social Security Works, an advocacy group that wants to see the program expanded.
"Joe Biden is running on a platform of protecting and expanding Social Security, and paying for it by requiring the wealthy to contribute their fair share," Alex Lawson, executive director of Social Security Works, said in a statement. "Donald Trump is running on a promise to defund and destroy Social Security." — Lorie Konish
The final question is about leadership. Moderator Kristen Welker asks Trump what he would say to Americans who didn't vote for him. He said he would emphasize how great the economy was running before the coronavirus came along, that success would unite people.
Biden again reiterated that while he was running as a Democrat, he would seek to be a president for all Americans.
– Mike Calia
President Donald Trump and Joe Biden accused each other of failing the Black community, with Trump attacking Biden over the 1994 crime bill that Biden supported in the Senate.
Biden hit back hard, calling first for the end of mandatory sentencing for drug crimes and then going after Trump personally.
"Biden never did a thing [for the Black community] except in 1994, when he did such harm to the black community, and he called them super predators," Trump said.
"Nobody has done more for the black community than Donald Trump," Trump continued. "If you look, with the exception of Abraham Lincoln, the possible exception of Lincoln, nobody has done what I've done."
"[Trump] is a guy who said the problem with the crime bill is there's not enough people in jail!" Biden exclaimed. "This is a guy, where the Central Park Five, five innocent black kids, [Trump] pushed for making sure they got the death penalty. None of them were guilty of the crimes they were accused of."
"And granted, [Trump] did in fact, he commuted 20 people's sentences. But we commuted over 1,000 people's sentences. The federal prison system was reduced by 38,000 people under our administration," said Biden.
"There should be no minimum mandatory sentences in the law. That is why I'm offering $20 million to states to change their state laws," Biden said. "No one should be going to jail because they have a drug problem. They should be going to rehabilitation, not jail. We should fundamentally change the system, and that is what I'm going to do." — Christina Wilkie
– Brian Clark
President Donald Trump deflected blame for Washington's months of failure to inject new money fighting Covid-19 and boosting a struggling U.S. economy.
Asked during the last presidential debate about policymakers' inability to send relief, Trump claimed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi "doesn't want to approve it," but "I do." The president argued Pelosi thinks delaying the passage of an aid bill "helps her politically."
The House has passed two versions of a Covid-19 relief package since May, but has so far failed to come to terms with the Trump administration on a plan that could also pass the GOP-held Senate. Trump has not directly joined in the talks at any point this year, and earlier this month ordered his administration to pull out negotiations.
Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have said they moved closer to a stimulus deal during discussions this week. Even if they reach an agreement before the election, Congress may not pass a bill for "a while," according to Pelosi.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden argued the Senate should have acted sooner to provide aid after the House bill was "sitting there" since May. He criticized Republicans for opposing relief for state and local governments, which have warned they could have to lay off first responders or teachers due to budget difficulties during the pandemic. — Jacob Pramuk
President Donald Trump bizarrely claimed that Joe Biden is "not from Scranton," Pennsylvania. But Biden is from Scranton.
Biden grew up in Scranton, as he is wont to say repeatedly, until the age of 10, when his family moved to Delaware.
Trump questioned Biden's origin after the former vice president scoffed at Trump invoking the stock market's strong performance as a measure of the nation's economic health.
"Where I come from in Scranton and Claymont the people don't live off of the stock market," Biden said.
Trump then doubled down, saying "401ks are through the roof, people's stock are through the roof, and he doesn't come from Scranton ... he lived there for a short period of time before he even knew, and he left."
Trump's last effort at birtherism was toward President Barack Obama, whom he long falsely suggested had been born in Kenya, instead of Hawaii, as Obama's birth certificate, a contemporaneous birth announcement in a Honolulu newspaper and most rational people say.
Sen. Bob Casey, D-Penn., snarkily tweeted Trump's claim over an image of Scranton newspaper with the headline "City native Joe Biden accepts Dem nomination." – Dan Mangan
Moderator Kristen Welker introduced immigration to the debate after the issue received almost no attention during the first presidential debate and vice presidential debate earlier this month.
Welker first asked President Donald Trump to defend his controversial family separation policy on the southern border. The president pointed to detention facilities built during Barack Obama's administration. "Who built the cages, I'd love you to ask him that," Trump said.
Democratic nominee Joe Biden answered for Obama-era record deportations. "It took too long to get it right," Biden admitted. The former vice president said he would introduce a pathway to citizenship for undocumented citizens.
"You don't know the law, Joe," Trump said.
"You've got 525 kids not knowing where in God's name they're going to be and lost their parents," Biden said.
"Go ahead," the president said to Welker.
President Donald Trump and Joe Biden differed sharply on the question of a national minimum wage. Trump argued that the minimum wage should be left to the states, and Biden backed a nationwide $15 minimum wage.
"Small businesses, by raising the minimum wage — that is not helping," said Trump. "It should be a state option. Alabama is different from New York. New York is different from Vermont. Every state is different. We have to help our small businesses. How are you helping small businesses when you are forcing wages? What has been proven to happen is when you do that, the small businesses fire many other employees."
The question of whether raising the minimum wage contributes to unemployment on a macro level is still hotly debated by economists.
Welker pressed Trump on his previous suggestion that he'd consider raising the minimum wage. "I would consider it to an extent," Trump said. "But not to a level that is going to put all these businesses out of business. It should be a state option. Different places are all different. Some places, $15 is not so bad. In other places, $15 [is good]."
Biden jumped in. "These people are working two jobs, because one job is below poverty," Biden said. "People are making six dollars, seven dollars an hour. These first responders, we clap as they come down the street...They deserve a minimum wage of $15. Anything below that puts you below the poverty level. And there is no evidence that when you raise the minimum wage, businesses go out of business."
If the Supreme Court rules the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, Biden said his next move would be to "pass Obamacare with a public option: Bidencare."
Biden said that under his plan, the public option would mean that "if you qualify for Medicaid and you do not have the wherewithal in your state to get Medicaid, you are automatically enrolled."
Additionally, the Democrat's plan would reduce premiums and allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices with insurance companies.
Biden also pushed back on Trump, who beforehand called Biden's health care proposal "socialized medicine."
Trump said that "I'd like to terminate Obamacare, come up with a brand new beautiful health care ... Come up with better health care, always protecting people with preexisting conditions."
Biden responded by attacking Trump for not having a clear health care plan, despite promising that he would unveil it.
"There's no way he can protect preexisting conditions. None. Zero. You can't do it in the ether," Biden said.
"He's been talking about this for a long time," Biden said. "I guess we're going to get the preexisting condition plan the same time we get the infrastructure plan." —Kevin Breuninger
WASHINGTON — Democratic nominee Joe Biden slammed President Donald Trump for his cozy relationship with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, calling the leader a "thug."
"What has he done?" Biden began, adding, "He has legitimized North Korea. He has talked about his good buddy who is a thug, a thug," Biden said, referencing Trump's meetings with Kim.
Trump responded by saying that Kim did not like former President Barack Obama and would, therefore, not meet with the previous administration.
"They tried to meet with him, he wouldn't do it. He didn't like Obama, he didn't like him, he wouldn't do it," Trump said. "You know what, North Korea, we're not at war, we have a good relationship," Trump added.
While North Korea has paused nuclear tests that prompted Trump's threat to bring "fire and fury" upon that country, it had already made significant progress before the historic dialogue with the U.S. started in 2018.
Under third-generation North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the reclusive state has conducted its most powerful nuclear test, launched its first-ever intercontinental ballistic missile and threatened to send missiles into the waters near the U.S. territory of Guam.
Since 2011, Kim has launched more than 100 missiles and conducted four nuclear weapons tests, which is more than what his father, Kim Jong Il, and grandfather, Kim Il Sung, launched over a period of 27 years.
"They left me a mess," Trump said of the Obama administration. "They left us a mess," Trump added.
Biden has described Trump's meetings with Kim as "photo-ops" that have yet to yield any concrete commitments from North Korea. He has also said that he would not pursue diplomatic talks with Kim without securing concessions from Pyongyang first.
Biden's running mate Kamala Harris has also downplayed the president's efforts to rein in Kim, saying "Donald Trump got punked" when asked about the administration's North Korean policy during the fifth Democratic primary debate.
— Amanda Macias
Trump repeated his claim that markets would tank if Biden were elected. "If he's elected, the stock market will crash," the president said.
But Biden fired back by pointing out that vast numbers of Americans aren't invested in the market. "What happens to the ordinary people out there?" Biden said.
As for which party is better for the stock market? It's not so simple either way. – Mike Calia
President Donald Trump claimed Joe Biden makes money from Russia, China and Ukraine, an allegation the former vice president strongly denied before mocking Trump for failing to publicly release his income tax returns and having a bank account in China.
"Joe got $3.5 million dollars from Russia that came through [Russian leader Vladimir] Putin because he was friendly with the mayor of Moscow," Trump said. "I never got any money from Russia."
"Russia was paying you a lot of money, and they probably still are," Trump claimed. "You were raking income, you and your family. You were vice resident when some of this was happening. It should have never happened. i think you open explanation to the American people."
Biden replied, "I have not taken a penny for any foreign source in my life."
"We learned this president does business in China, has a secret bank account in China, and is talking about me taking money? I have not taken a penny from a single country whatsoever," Biden said.
"Number two ... I released all my tax returns. 22 years, go look at them. You have not released a single solitary year of your tax return," Biden said. "What are you hiding? Why are you unwilling?"
"Foreign countries are paying you a lot," Biden told Trump. "Russia is paying you a lot. China is paying you a lot. Your hotels, your businesses all around the country, all around the world."
"So what's going on? Release your tax return or stop talking about corruption."
Trump then said, as he has for years, that he can't release his tax returns because they under audit by the IRS. – Dan Mangan
With just under two weeks left until Election Day, Democratic nominee Joe Biden is getting a final boost from business leaders on Wall Street, the media and the fashion industry.
In the first half of October, Biden Action, a joint fundraising committee between the campaign and the Democratic National Committee, raised over $5 million largely on the backs of titans across numerous industries.
This last minute support could help Biden continue to have a cash on hand advantage over Trump. Trump campaign went into October with just over $60 million in cash on hand, compared with Biden's nearly $180 million.
Ralph Lauren, the founder of the fashion behemoth the Ralph Lauren Corp., gave $150,000 earlier this month, the new Federal Election Commission records show. David Zaslav, the CEO of Discovery, gave $50,000.
Bruce Karsh, a founder of the investment firm, Oaktree Capital Management, contributed $100,000. Three different leaders at the private equity firm Berkshire Partners combined to give over $300,000.
Gregory Lee, a managing director at Goldman Sachs and Joseph Baratta, a senior managing director at Blackstone, each gave $50,000.
Meanwhile, Trump came out of the third quarter with almost no support from Wall Street. During the final debate on Thursday, the president took aim at Biden for those on Wall Street backing him. Biden has seen those in the securities and investment industry give over $50 million toward backing his candidacy, including millions to outside PACs.
After analyzing the most recent filings from the start of October, the campaign and the Republican National Committee, Wall Street has still largely stayed away. Instead, they have turned to business leaders in other industries that have supported Trump in the past.
Steve Wynn, the former CEO of Wynn Resorts, gave $240,000 in October to Trump Victory, a joint committee between Trump and the RNC. Phil Ruffin, a billionaire and owner of the Treasure Island Hotel & Casino, gave $275,000.
Trump Victory finished the first two weeks of October raising just over $13 million and have over $81 million on hand.
– Brian Schwartz
President Donald Trump and Joe Biden sparred over the benefits of slowing down reopening during coronavirus spikes. Trump accused Biden of being too hasty to shut down businesses, and Biden clarified that he's not talking about blanket shutdowns but properly funding reopening so it can be done safely.
"We need standards. The standard is if you have a reproduction rate in a community above a certain level, everybody says slow up. More social distancing. Do not open bars and gymnasiums, do not open until you get this under more control. When you do open, give people the capacity to open, and do it safely," said Biden.
"Schools need a lot of money, they need to deal with ventilation systems and smaller classes, they need more teachers. [Trump] has refused to support that money — up until now," Biden said.
"All he does is talk about shutdowns," Trump shot back. "Forget about him, his Democratic governors, Cuomo in New York, look at California, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Democrats have shut down so tight — and they are dying. He supports all these people, and all he talks about is shutdowns. We will not shut down. We have to open our schools."
— Christina Wilkie
Meet the "Polite Trump."
President Donald Trump began the debate less aggressively against Joe Biden than he did the first time, possibly in reaction to criticism from his own allies that he had damaged his changes with his behavior in the first showdown.
Trump at several points was notably polite to both moderator Kristen Welker and to Biden, and even said Biden was not to blame for the coronavirus coming to the United States from China. Trump did not yell.
The president's relatively low-key demeanor — for him, at least — with no insults or name calling in the early minutes of the debate was a striking contrast from his first debate performance in late September.
Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele even tweeted, "This 'Polite Trump' is a thing to behold."
– Dan Mangan
Biden warned that the U.S. is headed for a "dark winter" as it continues to grapple with the coronavirus, but Trump maintained that he had taken quick action to respond to the pandemic.
Asked how he could boost Americans' confidence to take a vaccine if and when it arrives, Biden said he would "make sure it's totally transparent."
He added: "And by the way, this is the same fellow who told you this is going to end by Easter, last time. This is the same fellow who told you that, 'Don't worry, this is going to end by the summer.'"
"We're about to go into a dark winter," Biden said. "And he has no clear plan and there's no prospect that there's going to be a vaccine available for a majority of the people until the middle of next year."
Trump pushed back: "I don't think we're going to have a dark winter at all. We're opening up our country, we've learned and studied and understand the disease which we didn't at the beginning."
The president also took his first shot of the night at Biden, noting that the former vice president criticized him in January when he put restrictions on travel from China.
"Now he's saying, 'Oh I should have moved quicker.' But he didn't move quicker, he was months behind me," Trump said.
Moderator Kristen Welker kicked off the debate with the first question of the night: "How would you lead the country during this next stage of the coronavirus crisis?"
President Donald Trump, who recently recovered from Covid-19, answered first, defending his administration's highly criticized response.
WASHINGTON — The nation's top intelligence official warned late Wednesday that Iran and Russia were actively trying to influence the upcoming U.S. presidential election, which is less than two weeks away.
"First we have confirmed that some voter registration information has been obtained by Iran and separately by Russia," said Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe in a rare late evening press briefing.
"This data can be used by foreign actors to attempt to communicate false information to registered voters that they hope will cause confusion, sow chaos and undermine your confidence in American democracy," Ratcliffe, who oversees the nation's 17 intelligence agencies, added.
In August, William Evanina, the nation's top U.S. counterintelligence official, warned in a rare public statement that Russia, China and Iran were all trying to influence the Nov. 3 election through a slew of methods.
A month later, FBI Director Christopher Wray warned lawmakers that Russia was actively interfering in the upcoming U.S. presidential election by spreading misinformation about Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
— Amanda Macias
The Biden campaign has just responded to claims that have surfaced in recent days from Tony Bobulinski, a would-be business partner of Hunter Biden, who said he met with Joe Biden about a Chinese investment deal in the spring of 2017, after Biden was no longer vice president.
"As Chris Wallace said on the air about this very smear, 'Vice President Biden has actually released his tax returns - unlike President Trump - and there is no indication he ever got any money from anybody in these business deals,'" said Biden spokesman Andrew Bates.
"Joe Biden has never even considered being involved in business with his family, nor in any overseas business whatsoever. He has never held stock in any such business arrangements nor has any family member or any other person ever held stock for him," the statement continued.
"What is true is that Tony Bobulinski admitted on the record to Breitbart that he is angry he was *not* able to go into business with Hunter and James Biden.
"What is also true is that in contrast to Vice President Biden, Donald Trump has a secret Chinese bank account and pays more in taxes in China than he pays in federal income taxes in the United States — and that this is a desperate, pathetic farce executed by a flailing campaign with no rationale for putting our country through another four years of hell," said Bates.
Bobulinski is a last minute guest of Trump's in Nashville, and he spoke to the press in a holding room earlier tonight.
Ahead of the final presidential debate, more than 47.7 million Americans have already voted in the 2020 election, according to the latest U.S. Elections Project data.
Votes cast by mail and in person this election cycle have now reached 34.7% of total voter turnout in the 2016 election. By Oct. 23, 2016, only 5.9 million Americans had voted early.
Democrats have dominated early voting, but Republicans are making up ground with in-person early voting. In states reporting voters' party registration data, registered Democrats have cast 39.8% of in-person ballots and Republicans have cast 38.5%, according to the project.
Several critical states do not report political affiliation at this stage, including Texas, which has led early voting with a staggering 5.8 million ballots cast as of Thursday afternoon — 65% of the state's total turnout in 2016. Texas is considered a must-win state for President Donald Trump.
High early-voting turnout allows Democratic organizers to cross off names on their targeting lists and focus resources on turning out a smaller pool of remaining voters closer to Election Day, experts say. But with more GOP voters turning out in-person, Republicans are looking to close the gap.
Joe Biden is ready for President Donald Trump to unleash a torrent of attacks on Biden's family at the final presidential debate, Biden campaign aides said Thursday on a press call.
Trump intends to hammer Biden over recently released emails allegedly taken off a laptop belonging to Biden's son Hunter.
The emails have not been independently verified, and intelligence analysts say that the timing of their release, and their murky provenance, bear the hallmarks of Russian election interference.
Biden intends to highlight Trump's willingness to once again seek to capitalize on illicitly obtained documents, much as he did in 2016.
"What's most troubling is that Donald Trump and his campaign seem perfectly comfortable using what many believe to be foreign attempts at interference for their own political gain," said Biden's deputy campaign manager, Kate Bedingfield.
The emails are the latest chapter in a multi-year effort by Trump and his allies to tarnish Biden by suggesting he used his position as vice president to help his son's career.
But a GOP led Senate committee already cleared Biden of any wrongdoing as vice president, another rebuttal Biden is likely to bring up.
— Christina Wilkie
President Donald Trump plans to cast a ballot in person on Saturday in West Palm Beach, according to the White House. His scheduled visit to the polls will follow previously announced campaign stops in Florida on Friday.
The battleground state began in-person early voting on Monday with long lines even amid stormy weather. According to state election data, over one million Floridians have voted in-person as of Thursday morning. Registered Republicans make up 45.6% of in-person early voters in the state so far compared to 37.0% for registered Democrats.
As President Donald Trump has criticized and stoked baseless fears about mail-in ballots throughout his reelection campaign, it's not surprising that Republicans might prefer in-person voting. The Tampa Bay Times reported that in-person voting is predicted to bring a wave of conservative voters, with around two-thirds of Florida GOP voters expected to cast ballots in person this election.
After weeks of refusing to stake out a position one way or the other on expanding the Supreme Court, Biden declared ahead of the debate that he will form a bipartisan commission to study the issue and seek out alternatives.
The controversy gained steam after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died last month and Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to replace her.
Progressives have pressed Biden to pack the court with liberals to offset the panel's GOP advantage, which will be 6-3 if Barrett is confirmed as expected on Monday. Trump and other Republicans have warned that Biden will do so, framing it as a dangerous power grab.
Biden said that the court system had gotten "out of whack" in an interview with CBS's "60 Minutes" announcing his new position, but declined to embrace the idea of adding justices.
"It's not about court packing," Biden said. "There's a number of other things that our constitutional scholars have debated, and I've looked to see what recommendations that commission might make."
Portions of the "60 Minutes" interview, which is scheduled to air on Sunday, were released early.
-- Tucker Higgins
It looks all but certain American voters will cast their ballots in the 2020 election without having received another round of coronavirus relief.
Democrats and the Trump administration have said they made progress this week in their scramble to reach a stimulus deal before Election Day on Nov. 3. Even so, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi acknowledged it will take "a while" to write and pass a bill even if the sides can resolve their differences in the coming days.
After calling off negotiations earlier this month, Trump has looked increasingly desperate to send aid to Americans before the election — or blame Democrats for Washington's failure to do so. His renewed focus on policies including direct payments and small business loans comes as his struggle to contain the pandemic and the accompanying economic damage appear to harm his reelection prospects.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has supported a range of economic recovery proposals, from expanded unemployment insurance, child care and hazard pay to relief for state and local governments. Even so, he has faced skepticism over his proposals to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans and corporations, which he said he would do even during the economic crisis.
A CNBC/Change Research poll this week found two-thirds of voters in six swing states believe the economy is struggling and needs more relief from the federal government.
Trump and Biden could face questions about coronavirus aid at the presidential debate during a segment focused on fighting Covid-19.
— Jacob Pramuk
President Donald Trump took a shot at CBS's "60 Minutes" hours before the debate, and gave Joe Biden some ammunition by doing so.
The White House released footage of Trump's contentious interview with "60 Minutes," after Trump griped that correspondent Lesley Stahl treated him unfairly with her questions, which led to him abruptly ending the sit-down. Trump cited Stahl's "constant interruptions & anger" in a tweet peevishly previewing the release.
It is unprecedented for the White House to release footage of an interview with a major news show before its air date, which in this case is Sunday.
Biden's campaign, during a call with reporters Thursday, noted that before Trump tromped away from the interview, he reiterated to Stahl his intention to replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, with a health-care reform plan of his own. No such plan has ever been released, despite Trump's repeated vows to do so.
Democrats have hammered away during the campaign at Trump's intention to repeal Obamacare, and have warned that his nominee to the Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett, would provide a vote to undo the law in a case pending before the high court.
— Dan Mangan
The topics for the final debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump were chosen by debate moderator, Kristen Welker of NBC News, who had sole discretion over them. Each topic will receive 15 minutes of time, and candidate will get two minutes of uninterrupted time to speak at the top of each segment.
1. Fighting Covid-19
2. Race in America
3. National Security
4. Climate Change
6. American Families
The topics were announced late last week, and on Monday the Trump campaign complained to the Commission on Presidential Debates that there would be an insufficient focus on foreign policy.
The Trump campaign claimed they had been told that the third debate would be foreign policy focused. In fact, the agreement between the campaigns was always that the moderators would select the topics.
– Christina Wilkie
The plexiglass barriers that were originally installed to separate President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden on the debate stage have been removed after both men tested negative for coronavirus.
Commission on Presidential Debates co-chairman Frank Fahrenkopf told NBC News that the commission's medical advisor changed their recommendation to use the barriers after learning about Trump and Biden's negative test results and consulting with White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci.
The Biden and the Trump campaigns agreed to the decision to remove the barriers, Fahrenkopf said.
Trump tested negative for the virus on the flight to Nashville, according to White House officials. Biden's campaign said the former vice president also tested negative today. Health experts, however, have warned that even regular testing is not enough to prevent transmission of the virus.
The Commission on Presidential Debates has taken greater precautions after the virus infected at least 27 people in and around the White House including President Trump, who was hospitalized for several days early this month. First lady Melania Trump was recently still suffering from a cough weeks after her diagnosis and cancelled her return to the campaign trail Tuesday.
Trump's coronavirus diagnosis led to the cancellation of the second presidential debate, which was scheduled for Oct. 15 in Miami, after he dismissed the Commission's decision to hold the event virtually. Trump and Biden were questioned at separate town halls on network television instead.
The plexiglass barriers were first used at the request of Sen. Kamala Harris during the vice presidential debate in Salt Lake City, despite initial resistance from Vice President Mike Pence. Some health experts have said the barriers offer little in the way of protection.
— Spencer Kimball
The debate could be one of President Trump's last, best opportunities to cut into former Vice President Joe Biden's lead in the polls.
Biden has maintained a sharp edge over Trump in most nationwide polls of U.S. voters — at times leading by double digits.
The NBC News national polling average had Biden up more than 8 percentage points over Trump ahead of the debate, and RealClearPolitics' own average gave Biden a 7.9-point advantage over the incumbent.
Polling trackers also show Biden ahead in a series of key swing states, though by slimmer margins in some hotly contested battlegrounds, such as Florida and North Carolina.
The Democratic nominee's lead has recently started to narrow slightly — but with 12 days left to campaign, Trump has little time remaining to close the gap.
Trump is also expected to attack Biden during the debate over recent reports about his son, Hunter Biden. That may energize Trump's supporters, but that message isn't widely viewed as one that will draw on-the-fence voters into his camp.
Trump on Thursday morning lashed out at Fox News' polling outfit, claiming that its surveys "are totally FAKE, just like they were in 2016."