Biden has most to lose in final Trump face-off, debate expert says

President Donald Trump is gearing up ... to face Joe Biden in this fall's presidential election. Biden, a former vice president and senator, has been on the campaign trail speaking to voters at social distancing events. . Trump has also held many campaign events around the country ... including a recent event in Atlanta on Sept. 25. . This election season is taking place in the shadow of the coronavirus ... and its devastating economic impact on the nation

Microphones to be muted to prevent interruptions

Leading in many national polls and fundraising, Democratic White House nominee Joe Biden has the most to lose in Thursday night’s second debate against Donald Trump, according to a presidential debate expert.

“This is potentially the most dangerous debate for Biden,” said presidential debate expert Mitchell McKinney, director of the political communication institute at the University of Missouri. “He has to show he can withstand whatever tactics Trump is going to bring to the debate stage to make him stumble or misstep.”

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The debate begins at 9 p.m. EDT from Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. NBC’s Kristen Welker will moderate.

“Biden has the most to lose, as he’s taking the stage with someone as unpredictable as Trump,” McKinney said. “We’ve been inoculated with Trump’s tactics, and we simply roll our eyes and say, ‘That’s just Trump being Trump.' But the question is, how will Biden respond? Will he show any cracks?”

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McKinney has served as a staff member in the U.S. Senate and the White House, and he has consulted with the Commission on Presidential Debates on the development of the town hall debate format and how debates can be structured in order to better educate citizens on significant campaign issues.

Thursday night’s debate would have been the third between the two men. Trump and Biden were scheduled to debate Oct. 15, but Trump rejected a last-minute change from the commission that would have made the debate virtual, instead of an in-person, town hall format. The nonpartisan commission cited a need “to protect the health and safety of all involved with the second presidential debate” in the wake of Trump’s recent bout with the coronavirus. It would have been held at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami and moderated by Steve Scully of C-SPAN.

On Monday, Trump’s reelection campaign lashed out at the commission about the topics and potential rule changes for the president’s final face-off against Biden.

In a two-page letter to the commission, Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien stopped short of threatening to withdraw from Thursday’s debate but said the nonpartisan commission’s “pro-Biden antics have turned the entire debate season into a fiasco.”

“For the good of campaign integrity and for the benefit of the American people, we urge you to rethink and reissue a set of topics for the October 22 debate, with an emphasis on foreign policy,” Stepien wrote in the letter, which was dated Oct. 19 and posted on his Twitter account.

The campaign chief said the topic list would “insulate Biden from his own history,” referring to allegations related to the foreign business dealings of the former vice president’s son, Hunter. Stepien said the final debate was “always billed” as a foreign policy debate but that was never announced by the commission or Welker.

“The campaigns and the commission agreed months ago that the debate moderator would choose the topics,” Biden campaign spokesman TJ Ducklo said in a statement. “The Trump campaign is lying about that now because Donald Trump is afraid to face more questions about his disastrous COVID response.”

Late Monday, the commission announced the candidates’ microphones will be muted during each man’s respective two-minute openings and answers, to allow uninterrupted time.

“It is completely unacceptable for anyone to wield such power, and a decision to proceed with that change amounts to turning further editorial control of the debate over to the Commission,” Stepien said.

“We started this presidential debate series with a debate that now stands as the most contentious and attack-oriented exchange in the history of presidential debates, resulting in the third-highest viewed debate,” McKinney said. “This was followed by the first presidential debate to be canceled because Trump refused to participate in the planned ‘virtual’ town hall debate. As a result, there is now great anticipation for the final meeting of these two candidates, where anything could happen on that debate stage.”

In their first debate, Trump constantly interrupted Biden and moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News, who promptly lost all control of the debate and was mocked on social media for his performance.

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“I’d be surprised if Trump doesn’t work in some quarreling with Welker," McKinney said.

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McKinney said there might be additional fireworks Thursday night.

“The final debate encounter in a series featuring an incumbent president trailing the challenger is typically characterized by great clashes and aggression, particularly from the incumbent who is behind in the polls and views this as a last chance to change the dynamics of the race,” McKinney said. “But Trump is now in something of a bind in terms of his highly aggressive first debate with Biden, with post-debate polls showing Trump suffered with many voters who saw his debate performance as far too combative.”

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