Tonight is the final 2020 presidential debate with President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. If you’re tuning in to watch tonight’s debate, you are likely wondering how long the debate tonight will last. When does it end? Read on for more details, and see an embedded video for watching the debate live right here.
The Debate Is Scheduled to Last 90 Minutes, But It’s Going Longer than That
Tonight’s debate began at 9 p.m. Eastern time and was scheduled to end at 10:30 p.m. Eastern time. (That’s 8 to 9:30 p.m. Central time, 7 to 8:30 p.m. Mountain time, and 6 to 7:30 p.m. Pacific time.) The event was intended to be 90 minutes of pure debating without commercial interruption. It was aired on practically every major broadcast channel, from CNN to Fox News to MSNBC and local stations in many locations.
The debate could, however, go slightly longer than 10:30 p.m. Eastern time, depending on how long the moderator takes for follow-up questions or how long Trump and Biden go beyond their allotted time. Because the mics can be muted during the two-minute response time, this might allow for fewer interruptions and less likelihood of an extra-long debate. Some TV stations have allotted an additional 30 minutes on their schedule for airing tonight’s debate.
As of 10:32 p.m. Eastern, it was clear that the debate was going to go longer than the original 90-minute plan. The final question for Trump and Biden wasn’t asked until after 10:30 p.m., which was the original time that the debate was supposed to end.
The Democratic debates sometimes went into “overtime” because so many candidates were on stage at the same time. During the first presidential debate, the final segment of the debate started just a few minutes before 10:30 p.m. Eastern, the original time the debate was scheduled to end. So if the last debate is any indication, this one could indeed go long again tonight.
The first debate between Trump and Hillary Clinton in 2016 was supposed to be 90 minutes long and ended up going 95 minutes long.
You can watch the debate in the stream below from C-SPAN.
About Tonight’s Debate
Tonight’s debate will be in six 15-minute segments, according to the Commission on Presidential Debates. Candidates will have two minutes to answer the opening question and they will be able to respond to each other too. A Commission technician will have the ability to mute an opposing candidate’s mic during the two-minute initial answer time. This is in contrast to the first debate, where mics were not muted and there were complaints of frequent interruptions.
According to The Commission on Presidential Debates, the topics for tonight’s debate will include:
- Fighting COVID-19
- American Families
- Race in America
- Climate Change
- National Security
This lineup caused controversy. Trump’s campaign requested that the debate add back foreign policy as a topic. The Commission had originally announced that the debate’s topic would focus on foreign affairs, KIRO 7 reported. You can read the letter from Trump’s campaign with the request in the tweet below.
Our letter to the BDC (Biden Debate Commission) pic.twitter.com/ZsY5JfMbT7
— BillStepien (@BillStepien) October 19, 2020
The Commission has noted on its website that the debate topics are subject to change based on news developments.
Libertarian candidate Jo Jorgenson is not in tonight’s debate. The Commission on Presidential Debates explained that qualifications for being in the debate included getting ballot access in enough states for a theoretical electoral college majority, along with achieving 15% in five national public polls. CPD announced which five polls it would use on August 28, 2020, based on the frequency of polling, sample size, methodology, and reputation.