By Vivian Jones | The Center Square
In less than a week, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden will face off for the second and final presidential debate before the Nov. 3 election – and the stage is set.
The debate, organized by the Commission on Presidential Debates, will take place in the Curb Event Center at Belmont University in Nashville from 8 to 9:30 p.m. CDT on Thursday – 11 days before the election.
“While the debate itself will only last 90 minutes, the lessons imparted and the experiences that folks are having around this will last for a lifetime,” Belmont University President Bob Fisher said during a news conference Friday. “We believe it’s our responsibility as an institution of higher education to host events like this and to create forums where our country can make those decisions about our future.”
After a debate scheduled for Oct. 15 in Miami was cancelled, Thursday’s debate in Nashville will mark the last time the two candidates meet face to face before Americans choose the next president.
The debate will be moderated by Kristen Welker, a White House Correspondent for NBC who moderated a Democratic presidential primary debate with NBC colleagues Rachel Maddow, Andrea Mitchell and Ashley Parker in November 2019.
Thursday will be the second time a presidential debate is held on the Belmont campus. In October 2008, then-Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama faced off in a debate moderated by NBC’s Tom Brokaw.
Debate coverage is set to be broadcast in 40 countries.
“Next week, Belmont will once again shine a light on our great state, putting the eyes of the world on Tennessee just 11 days before Americans cast their vote for the President of the United States,” Gov. Bill Lee said in a video statement, welcoming both candidates, the Commission on Presidential Debates and the world media to the state.
Extensive safety precautions are underway. All media and attendees are required to wear surgical grade masks throughout their time on the Belmont campus. Credentialed media are required to undergo a provided COVID-19 test and show proof of a negative result within 72 hours to gain access to the campus.
While the 2008 debate welcomed more than 2,500 media members to Belmont’s campus, the media filing center is limited to 200 reporters to accommodate social distancing. An additional 48 TV broadcast teams will work from platforms on the campus lawn.
“We have a reputation for safety that we have built, and we are maintaining,” Nashville Mayor John Cooper said. “We have taken action to control the virus instead of letting the virus control us.”
Security, too, is extensive. The Secret Service has collaborated with Nashville’s police and fire departments and the Office of Emergency Management to execute security for the candidates, attendees and media.
“This has been a unified and collaborative effort within the Nashville law enforcement public safety community,” said Todd Hudson, special agent in charge of the Secret Service’s Nashville Field Office.
Butch Ferran, board chairperson of the Nashville Convention Corporation, said he looks forward to the attention Nashville and Tennessee will receive.
“This debate will shine a very positive global spotlight on our city,” Ferran said, noting the event will provide the city a “much-needed economic boost.”
“I fully expect this debate to pay off as much as 2008,” he said. “And I can only hope that FIFA is watching this, and that Saturday Night Live takes another shot at Nashville just a few days after.”