Donald Trump-Joe Biden second debate; 6 topics to follow

President Donald Trump and Democratic White House nominee Joe Biden are meeting in their second — and final — debate Thursday, less than two weeks from the nation’s historic Nov. 3 election.

According to the Commission on Presidential Debates, the six topics chosen for discussion are fighting COVID-19; American families; race in America; climate change; national security; and leadership. Others may be added, the nonpartisan commission said.

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.

This week’s debate is in Nashville, Tennessee, at Belmont University, with NBC’s Kristen Welker moderating.

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.

Trump’s performance helped Biden achieve a fundraising record in the one hour after the debate, as well as a 24-hour fundraising record the next day.

With more than 22 million votes already cast, Trump cannot afford another poor debate performance. Thursday’s faceoff in Nashville represents a huge opportunity for Trump to generate some momentum. There will be no moment before Election Day in which more persuadable voters are paying attention to the Republican president’s message.

Biden’s lead in the national polls appears to be as strong as ever, but his advantage in some battleground states, including Florida, which began early voting Monday, is narrowing. Trump is also raising persistent questions about the 77-year-old former vice president’s age and mental health, and Biden cannot afford to have a “senior moment” or anything like it on the biggest political stage of his life.

The two campaigns spent this past weekend on markedly different schedules. On Saturday, Biden made no appearances, virtual or otherwise, while Trump campaigned in Michigan and Wisconsin and finished his day in Nevada. Only two more Saturdays remain before Election Day.

Trump is drawing huge crowds reminiscent of 2016′s final days, and Biden is sticking to his cautious approach with small events focused more on adhering to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s social distancing recommendations.

Two weeks before Election Day, coronavirus infections are surging to their highest levels since July. At least 10 states reported their highest single-day number of infections over the weekend, and some health experts are predicting the possibility of 100,000 daily U.S. infections soon.

Whether Trump wins or loses, his struggle to manage his campaign finances is a major factor shaping the election’s final stretch. During the next two weeks, Trump and his allies focused on the presidential election are being outspent on political advertising $70.7 million to the Democrats' $141.3 million, according to the media tracking firm Kantar/CMAG.

Facing a cash shortfall, Trump has largely retreated from TV advertising in the Midwest, shifting much of his campaign’s advertising investments to states such as Florida, North Carolina, Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania.

Fears of complacency prompted Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon to issue a memo over the weekend reminding would-be supporters of similar dynamics that shaped the final weeks of the 2016 election.

“The reality is that this race is far closer than some of the punditry we’re seeing on Twitter and on TV would suggest,” O’Malley Dillon wrote. “If we learned anything from 2016, it’s that we cannot underestimate Donald Trump or his ability to claw his way back into contention in the final days of a campaign, through whatever smears or underhanded tactics he has at his disposal.”