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The Final Trump-Biden Debate: A New Mute Button and New Questions

10-22-2020
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Tonight's final presidential debate will pit President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden against each other in a race for votes less than two weeks before the general election on Nov. 3rd. 

Already, more than 44 million Americans have voted early, according to the US Elections Project, a University of Florida-based data site.

The candidates will meet at Belmont University, a Christian college in Nashville, Tennessee.

Debate moderator Kristen Welker, NBC's White House correspondent, selected six topics for the 90-minute event. They include COVID-19, American families, national security, leadership, climate change, and race in America.

The Commission on Presidential Debates added a new rule for this debate: a mute button that will keep the candidates silent while the other delivers two-minute remarks at the beginning of each of the debate topics. They'll have a total of 15 minutes for each issue.

With Biden enjoying a cash advantage and a solid lead, at least according to the polls cited and created by the media, the president must use tonight's event to build momentum and make his case.

While Biden has spent the week out of sight preparing for the debate, according to aides, the president has campaigned vigorously. In Gastonia, North Carolina on Wednesday night Trump urged the crowd to vote and reminded his base of his commitment to religious liberty.

"If you want your children to grow up in a free nation, where they can speak their minds and practice their religion, then you must defeat sleepy Joe Biden and the radical left," he said.

President Barack Obama campaigned Wednesday night for Biden in Philadelphia, saying his former vice president has a better plan than Trump to fight COVID-19. "Joe will get this pandemic under control with a plan to get testing free and widely available, to get a vaccine to every American cost-free," Obama said at a drive-in rally.

Biden is no doubt preparing for attacks from the President on his son Hunter over criticisms of international influence peddling, especially based on the new revelations about what happened at Burisma in Ukraine. So far, Biden has dismissed the allegations as "a last-ditch effort in this desperate campaign to smear me and my family."

The debate also coincides with news from the intelligence community that Russia and Iran have obtained access to some voter registration information. 

Officials said Wednesday that Iran tried to stir up controversy by sending emails to Democratic voters in battleground states with the apparent intent of intimidating them into voting for the president. Of course, Iran is no fan of President Trump after he canceled its economic deal with the US and killed its terrorist mastermind, Qassem Soleimani.

In a rare news conference, the government's top intelligence official, John Ratcliffe, said "these actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries" and promised that the US will impose costs on any country that interferes with the Nov. 3rd election.

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