Trump vs. Biden: The rules for the TV debate


Lerato Khumalo

This time everything was a little different. To ensure a civilized TV debate, Trump and Biden had previously agreed to these rules.

US President Joe Biden and his challenger Donald Trump competed against each other in a TV duel on CNN. It was the first direct encounter between the two bitter rivals in four years.

Since this time things were supposed to be more civilized than the TV debates for the last presidential election in 2020, some rules had been agreed upon in advance. An overview.

Unlike in previous debates, the two candidates had to forego an opening statement this time. Instead, the debate ended with a closing statement from both of them. The debate was to begin with a question from the moderator, to which both were then allowed to answer for two minutes each. Biden and Trump then each had one minute to refute the other’s statement and provide counterarguments. The candidates were reminded to keep to the time limit using visual effects.

To prevent interruptions, the microphone of the person who was not speaking was turned off. There was also no live audience to avoid additional unrest and heckling. This was intended to direct the focus to the content, rather than the two attacking each other on a character level, as has often been the case in the past.

Both Biden and Trump stood at identical lecterns, with their positions on the stage determined by a coin toss. A coin toss went in favor of Biden’s team, CNN wrote on its website. It was therefore able to determine that the Democrat would receive the podium seat on the right as seen from the audience. In return, Trump’s team was allowed to decide who would speak last in the closing remarks. This would be the Republican.

Both were forbidden from entering the debate with prepared notes. They were only given a blank sheet of paper and a pen so that they could write down their opponent’s arguments during the debate.

For the first time in recent history, the 90-minute debate included two commercial breaks. During the breaks, neither Biden nor Trump were allowed to speak to their campaign staff to prevent strategic deliberations.

It is unusual that the first TV debate between the two presidential candidates took place in June. Trump and Biden were not supposed to be chosen as their parties’ official candidates until July and August at party nominating conventions. However, they secured the necessary delegate votes for this early in the race in the primaries – which is why they are already considered candidates for the presidential election in early November.

In the 2020 election year – still in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic – the first of two Biden-Trump duels attracted attention mainly because of the shouting between the two. But the debate is also memorable for another incident. A few days after the exchange, the White House announced that Trump had contracted Covid-19. As a result, the Republican was hospitalized for several days. About a year later, Trump’s then chief of staff, Mark Meadows, wrote in a book that Trump had already tested positive for the coronavirus before the debate, but received a negative test result in another test. Trump rejected the account.

Another TV debate between Biden and Trump is planned for September and will be hosted by ABC. It is still unclear whether and when there will be a TV debate between the candidates for the office of Vice President as usual. Biden will again run with Kamala Harris at his side; Trump has not yet named a vice president.