President Donald Trump gestures from the top of the steps of Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. Trump is heading to North Carolina for a campaign rally. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Donald Trump gestures from the top of the steps of Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. Trump is heading to North Carolina for a campaign rally. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Face to face: Trump, Biden to meet for final debate

With less than two weeks until Election Day, Joe Biden is leading most national polls

President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden are set to square off in their final debate Thursday, one of the last high-profile opportunities for the trailing incumbent to change the trajectory of an increasingly contentious campaign.

Worried about losing the White House, some advisers are urging Trump to trade his aggressive demeanour from the first debate for a lower-key style that puts Biden more squarely in the spotlight. But it’s unclear whether the president will listen.

Biden, who has stepped off the campaign trail in favour of debate prep, expects Trump to get intensely personal. The former vice-president and his inner circle see the president’s approach chiefly as an effort to distract from the coronavirus, its economic fallout and other crises.

With less than two weeks until Election Day, Biden is leading most national polls and has a narrower advantage in the battleground states that could decide the race. More than 42 million people have already cast their ballots. The debate, moderated by NBC’s Kristen Welker, is a final chance for both men to make their case to a television audience of tens of millions of voters.

“The rule is that last debates before the election have a big impact,” said presidential historian Michael Beschloss, who made clear the legacy of the candidates’ first face-off: “That was the most out of control presidential debate we have seen.”

Trump, who staged a remarkable comeback in the closing days of the 2016 campaign, believes he can do it again by using the power of the presidency to attack his rival.

Trump on Tuesday called on Attorney General William Barr to immediately launch an investigation into unverified claims about Biden and his son Hunter, effectively demanding that the Justice Department muddy his political opponent and abandon its historic resistance to getting involved in elections.

The president has promoted an unconfirmed New York Post report published last week that cites an email in which an official from Ukrainian gas company Burisma thanked Hunter Biden, who served on the company’s board, for arranging for him to meet Joe Biden during a 2015 visit to Washington. The Biden campaign has rejected Trump’s assertion of wrongdoing and noted that Biden’s schedule did not show a meeting with the Burisma official.

Some former national security officials and other experts said the episode raised multiple red flags of a possible foreign disinformation effort, especially given the involvement of Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, and Giuliani’s active role in promoting an anti-Biden narrative on Ukraine.

But John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence, dismissed that disinformation theory. And the FBI appeared to endorse Ratcliffe’s position in a letter to a Senate committee that had requested information on the laptop.

Trump’s attacks on the Biden family have been relentless, including his efforts to get Ukraine to investigate Biden, which led to Trump’s impeachment. It’s part of a determined, yet so-far-unsuccessful effort to drive up his opponent’s negatives, as he did with Hillary Clinton four years ago.

Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said, “Trump is still the political outsider, while Biden is the ultimate insider. We now know that Biden allowed his son to sell access to him while he was vice-president.”

While Biden will defend his own record and his son, aides have said, he hopes to focus on making the case that Trump is unfit for office and let the nation down during a confluence of crises.

“He knows that people want to hear about how we’re going to help working families get through the end of the month and pay the rent,” his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, said Wednesday in North Carolina. “That’s what people care about, and one of the things I love about Joe Biden – he doesn’t take on or talk about other peoples kids.”

The one-two punch of the first debate and the president’s three-day hospital stint after contracting COVID-19 rattled his base of support and triggered alarm among Republicans who fear the White House and Senate could be slipping away.

The initial debate was the most tumultuous in modern history, with a belligerent tone that was persistent and somehow fitting for what has been an extraordinarily ugly campaign. Amid heated clashes over the pandemic, the Supreme Court and the integrity of the election itself, Trump refused to condemn white supremacists who have supported him, telling one such group known as Proud Boys to “stand back, stand by.”

The two men frequently talked over each other with Trump interrupting, nearly shouting, so often that Biden eventually snapped at him, “Will you shut up, man?”

Aides have urged Trump, who has skipped debate prep, to show some restraint this time, allowing Biden to speak more and get himself in trouble with verbal gaffes and lapses. But the president has made no promises.

It was two days after first debate in Cleveland when Trump tested positive for the coronavirus. The White House has refused to reveal when the president had last tested negative before the debate, raising questions as to whether he was already infected when he took the stage.

After the diagnosis, the Commission on Presidential Debates ruled that the second debate, which was to have been held last week, be virtual. Trump balked, leading to the cancellation of the debate and the two men holding dueling town halls instead, speaking at the same time more than 1,000 miles apart.

On the debate stage Wednesday, two large plexiglass shields had been put in place in front of the candidates’ lecterns.

Thursday night, in an effort to curtail interruptions, Trump and Biden will each have his microphone cut off while his rival delivers an opening two-minute answer to each of the six debate topics, the commission announced. The mute button won’t figure in the open discussion portion of the debate, but has drawn criticism from Trump.

“The mute is very unfair,” he said Wednesday as he left the White House for a campaign rally.

Jonathan Lemire, Bill Barrow And Steve Peoples, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

police
Alberta RCMP wants you to receive your parcels

Last year, in all of 2019, there were over 4,000 occurrences of mail theft within Alberta RCMP jurisdiction

SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, which causes COVID-19, emerge from the surface of cells isolated from a patient in the U.S. and cultured in a lab in a 2020 electron microscope image. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-HO, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories
Alberta now has 17,743 active cases of COVID-19

Province now has 17,743 active cases

Stettler Food Bank is well stocked after generous donations during the holiday season. Contributed photo
Slight increase in demand at the Stettler Food Bank over recent weeks

The Stettler Food Bank is located in the basement of Stettler’s United Church

Sign
The Stettler Pheasant Festival reflects on community impact

The festival has seen people visit from all over western Canada and into the United States

Idyllic winter scenes are part of the atmosphere of the holiday season, and are depicted in many seasonal movies. How much do you know about holiday movies? Put your knowledge to the test. (Pixabay.com)
QUIZ: Test your knowledge of holiday movies and television specials

The festive season is a time for relaxing and enjoying some seasonal favourites

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

People line up at a COVID-19 assessment centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Wednesday, December 2, 2020. Toronto and Peel region continue to be in lockdown. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19 vaccine approval could be days away as pressures mount on health-care system

Many health officials in regions across the country have reported increasing pressures on hospitals

File Photo
Sylvan Lake Town Council squashes mask bylaw

The bylaw did not make it past first reading, after a 4-3 vote defeated the motion

A logo for Netflix on a remote control is seen in Portland, Ore.,Aug. 13, 2020. Experts in taxation and media say a plan announced Monday by the government will ultimately add to the cost of digital services and goods sold by foreign companies. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jenny Kane
‘Netflix tax’ for digital media likely to raise prices for consumers, experts say

The government says Canadian companies already collect those taxes when they make digital sales

Gaming content was big on YouTube in 2020. (Black Press Media files)
What did Canadians watch on Youtube during isolation? Workouts, bird feeders

Whether it was getting fit or ‘speaking moistly,’ Canadians had time to spare this year

A teacher places the finishing touches on the welcome sign at Hunter’s Glen Junior Public School which is part of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Sept. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Hindsight 2020: How do you preserve a year many Canadians would rather forget?

Figuring out how to preserve the story of the pandemic poses a series of challenges

Team Manitoba celebrate after defeating Team Ontario to win the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Moose Jaw, Sask., Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020. Curling Canada wants Calgary’s Canada Olympic Park to be a curling hub for the season’s top events. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Calgary facility set to become curling hub during pandemic

Curling Canada has provisional approval for Calgary’s hub-city concept from Alberta Health

Most Read