President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden will not go head-to-head on a debate stage this week. Instead, both candidates will participate in town hall events in separate battleground states scheduled to take place on the same evening and at the same time.
In lieu of the second presidential debate, which was canceled last week after Trump rejected the shift in format to be virtual, the president agreed to answer voters’ questions at a town hall event on Thursday that will be sponsored by NBC News. Trump and Biden will hit the debate stage at the next and final debate on Oct. 22.
The network announced the plans early Wednesday, after Trump reported a negative coronavirus test.
NBC News’ town hall event, moderated by “Today” anchor Savannah Guthrie, will be held outdoors at the Pérez Art Museum in Miami and follow strict public health guidelines outlined by health officials amid the coronavirus pandemic. The event will air at 8 p.m. ET, which is the same day and time that Biden is slated to appear at a town hall event sponsored by ABC News in Philadelphia.
NBC News said Wednesday that the network received a statement from Dr. Clifford Lane, clinical director at the National Institutes of Health, noting that he and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, convened to look over Trump’s reported medical details, including a PCR test that was reviewed on Tuesday, and concluded “with a high degree of confidence” that the president is “not shedding infectious virus.”
The town hall event comes after Trump tested positive for the coronavirus at the beginning of October, which prompted the Commission on Presidential Debates to change the format of the second presidential debate to prevent potential spread of the coronavirus. After Trump withdrew from the debate due to the mitigated plans, Biden announced he would conduct a town hall event, in which the president followed suit.
As Trump battles the former vice-president in the polls, an intimate town hall event with a group of Florida voters could be beneficial for his re-election bid. Here are some questions and topics that voters should ask the president at the event.
Coronavirus: If Elected in November, What Is Your National Response to Stop the Spread of the Coronavirus?
The coronavirus pandemic plagued the country in March, two months after Trump took swift action to stop travel from China—where the virus originally brewed—and applied enhanced airport security to mitigate the spread of the virus into the United States. Since then, it’s killed more than 216,000 Americans and infected nearly 7.9 million people in America. With the election less than three weeks away, according to recent polls, the deadly disease rests as a top priority for likely general election voters.
While some Americans argue that Trump’s handling of the coronavirus has been poor, Trump can focus on what his administration plans to do moving forward, including passing another massive coronavirus stimulus bill, boosting widespread contact tracing and testing and ensuring a safe and effective vaccine in record time.
Under Trump’s leadership, Congress passed a big-spending coronavirus relief package that financially supported small businesses and unemployed workers who boiled in economic defeat due to the impact of the public health crisis. The package helped the drowning economy gain stable traction that welcomed unemployed Americans back into the workforce, which reduced the unemployment rate in recent weeks, as the legislation provided stimulus checks and additional unemployment benefits to aid struggling Americans. In the next package, Trump and top White House aides have advocated for an extension of these provisions, a promise he can make at the town hall event to battleground voters who experienced this economic brutality.
Another important point the president can pivot to is the fact that he has pushed to develop a vaccine and therapeutics to treat the virus in record time. The Trump administration launched Operation Warp Speed, a public-private partnership, that has a goal of producing and delivering 300 million doses of a safe and effective vaccine by January. Trump must focus on how the vaccine will help flatten the curve and stress that Americans should trust the scientists who are working on the vaccine, since some voters are skeptical in taking one that’s been approved in such a short amount of time.
Health Care: Will You Guarantee that Anyone with Pre-Existing Conditions Would be Covered Under Your Health Care Plan?
Trump has consistently noted that his “America First” health care plan will protect people with pre-existing medical conditions, a provision that is guaranteed in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a Obama-era law that will likely be overturned if conservative Judge Amy Coney Barrett is appointed to the Supreme Court.
His health care plan includes a series of executive orders aimed at protecting people with pre-existing medical issues, as well as a method for preventing surprise billing. According to the president’s policy, “This includes a steadfast commitment to always protecting individuals with pre-existing conditions and ensuring they have access to the high-quality healthcare they deserve. No American should have to risk going without health insurance based on a health history that he or she cannot change.”
But media outlets have argued that his plans actually reduce benefits included in the ACA and do not formally guarantee protection for Americans with pre-existing health issues due to its reduced cost. In the town hall event on Thursday, the president must clarify his “America First” health care plan and ensure that his Administration seeks to protect Americans with pre-existing conditions in the event that Obamacare is ruled unconstitutional.
Minority Owned Small Businesses: If You Are Re-Elected, How Will You Help Minority Owned Small Businesses Financially Recover After the Economic Crisis?
The economic recession triggered by the pandemic forced millions of small businesses, particularly those owned by minorities, to permanently shutter its doors.
In late September, Trump unveiled the “Platinum Plan” for Black America that aims to boost and uplift Black communities through widespread investment. Trump has acknowledged that minority owned small businesses have been hit harder by the economic downturn, as many of them didn’t qualify or were overlooked in the Paycheck Protection Program that was a part of the big coronavirus relief bill passed in March.
To restore minority owned small businesses, the president calls for increased lending through community development financial institutions, or lenders that focus on financing minority and underserved communities, and aim to provide up to $40 billion in governmental funds to help them economically recover.
As a policy that often got neglected in the news, it’s important that Trump promises his commitment to help underserved small businesses that suffered dramatically as a result of the devastating pandemic. The “Platinum Plan” is a historic Republican agenda “focused on the economic empowerment of the Black community,” White House adviser Ja’Ron Smith told NPR.
Unemployment Benefits: In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) Ended the Unemployment Program that You Implemented. In the Next Round of a Coronavirus Relief Package, Will Floridians See More Unemployment Benefits?
Trump signed an executive order in early August that established the Federal Lost Wages Assistance Program, requiring states to spend at least $100 per person weekly through the state-level jobless benefits relief in order for unemployed Floridians to receive the additional weekly benefits created in the president’s program. Florida, however, has a fragile unemployment program with a depleted monetary supply, forcing the state withdraw from the federal program, since it could not meet the financial threshold.
The Sunshine State’s weekly payments reach up to $275 per person, one of the lowest in the country, with some Floridians making much less than that. Since the state provides jobless Americans little relief, DeSantis, a close ally of Trump, had to scrap the program after Florida gathered three weeks of the federal aid, making the state the first to terminate the program, as it had high associated costs.
Trump’s executive order only served as a buffer as congressional negotiations after the next coronavirus relief bill hit a brick wall. But in recent days, the president has told White House negotiators to consider House Democrats’ requests in big spending measures. Although the specific amount that each unemployed American would receive in an added benefit from the next and potentially final package remains unresolved, Trump has made it a priority to extend jobless benefits.
Trump must illuminate his priority to be willing to reach across the aisle and negotiate with top Democrats on the next coronavirus stimulus package in an effort to provide economic relief to jobless Americans who have been brutally swamped in unpaid bills and expenses.
Law and Order: If Elected in November, How Will You Ensure Safety in Suburban Neighborhoods With the Outbreak of Racial and Equality Concerns?
“Law and Order” has taken center stage on Trump’s campaign platform for 2020. As America’s major cities and suburbs boil in rioting, looting and violence, the president has promised to protect not only police officers involved, but also suburban communities that are dealing with this ongoing issue.