By LIBBY CATHEY, ABC News
(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) — President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee, face off in the final presidential debate of the 2020 election cycle from Belmont University in Nashville on Thursday night, marking the candidates’ last chance to pitch themselves to tens of millions of voters in primetime before Nov. 3.
The stakes are high: Trump must make his case as polls show him trailing nationally and in several battleground states key to his reelection hopes. At the same time, Biden has a platform to solidify his lead and avoid any major mistakes with Election Day just 12 days away.
Biden has spent the week hunkered down in Wilmington, Delaware, to prepare — what he’s done before other debates — while Trump has seemingly done less to prepare, telling reporters on Wednesday, “I do prep, I do prep,” without elaborating. Earlier this week Trump said that answering journalists’ questions is the best kind of preparation.
Thursday’s debate was supposed to be the candidates’ third matchup but is instead the second of only two presidential debates this election. Trump refused to participate in the second debate when it was moved to a virtual format following his COVID-19 diagnosis. The candidates ultimately participated in dueling town halls instead.
ABC Television Network coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET with a one-hour special, “Trump vs. Biden: The Final Presidential Debate – A Special Edition of 20/20.” ABC News Live will begin previewing the debate at 7 p.m. The debate begins at 9 p.m. and ABC News’ political team will provide context and analysis on both platforms following the debate.
Here’s how the evening is unfolding. All times Eastern.
Oct 22, 6:23 pm
Plexiglass removed from debate stage
The debate commission has removed the two plexiglass barriers that were positioned between the candidates’ lecterns.
Peter Eyre, senior advisor with the Commission on Presidential Debates, said that circumstances on the ground have changed and it’s unlikely that the plexiglass partitions will be put back up, according to a pool report.
The news follows both candidates reporting testing negative for COVID-19. It’s unclear if those who accompanied them to travel to Nashville were also tested.
-ABC News’ Drew Millhorn
Oct 22, 6:13 pm
Trump to early vote in Florida on Saturday
The White House announced Trump will vote early in Florida on Saturday.
“President Trump plans to early vote on Saturday in West Palm Beach, Florida,” spokesman Judd Deere said.
It had been expected that the president would vote absentee, because even as he has railed against mail-in voting, he has also justified his own practice of voting absentee in the past.
-ABC News’ Jordyn Phelps
Oct 22, 5:55 pm
Trump vs. Biden: On the issues
ABC News has broken down where each candidate stands on some of the key issues:
Oct 22, 5:42 pm
Early voting hits record numbers across the country
With early voting having kicked off in all 50 states plus Washington, D.C., at least 47 million votes have already been cast in the 2020 general election as early voting data continues to break records across the country.
In 2016, there was a total of 47 million early votes cast, meaning the country has narrowly passed its 2016 early voting data with 12 days still left.
According to the United States Elections Project, spearheaded by University of Florida’s political expert Michael McDonald, as of Thursday at 5 p.m. ET an unprecedented 47,095,528 voters have already cast their ballots and at least 85,133,505 ballots have been requested in early voting states.
TargetSmart, a Democratic firm that collects political data including early voting statistics, reports that 10 million voters who have already voted in the 2020 election did not participate in the 2016 election. Many of these early votes are coming from young voters as well as first time voters with individuals under 30 years old having cast 9.1% of early votes.
During an earlier press conference, TargetSmart predicted that there will still be an additional 40 million early votes as well as between 60-70 million votes on Election Day. Their prediction allots for at least 150 million ballots cast. In comparison, in the 2016 election, there were 138 million total votes.
-ABC News’ Kelsey Walsh
Oct 22, 5:26 pm
Candidates to face off at a social distance between plexiglass partitions
Plexiglas partitions were placed on the debate stage next to each candidates’ lectern — already set up at least 12 feet apart — as a coronavirus precaution for the second and final presidential debate in Nashville.
According to a source familiar with the debates, the partitions were added under the direction of the Cleveland Clinic as part of its responsibility to keep debate participants safe.
Plexiglass became an issue prior to the vice-presidential debate when the two campaigns squabbled over whether to have physical barriers separate the two candidates.
The insistence on barriers was initially met with resistance by Vice President Mike Pence’s team, but they were ultimately used.
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.