The latest on the 2020 election and SCOTUS battle

By Meg Wagner and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 6:00 p.m. ET, September 29, 2020
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9:02 a.m. ET, September 29, 2020

Tonight's debate will look a bit different due to Covid-19

From CNN's Arlette Saenz

Eric Baradat/AFP/Getty Images
Eric Baradat/AFP/Getty Images

Covid-19 has impacted the way President Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's first presidential debate will play out tonight at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio.

Here are some of the modifications:

  • No handshake: Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will forgo a handshake at their first face-to-face showdown. Peter Eyre, a senior adviser for the Commission on Presidential Debates, said the candidates also won't exchange handshakes with the moderator, Chris Wallace of Fox News. Once on stage in Cleveland, Ohio, the three men will not wear masks.
  • Audience: The size of the audience will be limited compared to previous debates, and everyone attending the debate at Case Western Reserve University will undergo testing for Covid-19 and follow other health safety protocols. Frank Fahrenkopf, co-chairman of the Commission on Presidential Debates, which is conducting the event, told CNN the average in-person audience for a debate is around 900 people, with up to as many as 1,200 depending on the venue. But for this debate, he estimated 60 to 70 audience members would be seated in the debate hall. Both first lady Melania Trump and Ivanka Trump will be in attendance at the debate, a White House official confirmed to CNN.
  • Podiums: As they prepare to face off for the first time, Biden and Trump will each stand at podiums on stage — the President on the right side of the stage looking at the audience and the former vice president on the left. Wallace will be seated at a desk facing the two candidates.The candidates will not have opening statements, and Trump will receive the first question from the moderator.

Another sign of Covid-19's impact on the debate — there will not be a media "spin room" where campaigns typically send supporters and representatives to make the case for their candidates after the debate.

Read more about tonight's debate here.