No handshakes, limited audience: Covid shapes final Trump-Biden debate talks

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Representatives for President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden have hammered out the final details for Tuesday’s debate, a showdown that will be heavily shaped by the coronavirus pandemic.

The two sides have decided to forego the traditional pre-debate handshake in light of the virus, according to a person with direct knowledge of the negotiations. They also won’t do an elbow-bump, a coronavirus-era handshake substitute which both campaigns saw as awkward.

Neither Trump nor Biden nor the debate moderator, Fox News host Chris Wallace, will wear masks.

And unlike past presidential debates, there will be a limited audience of only 75 to 80 people, all of whom will be tested prior to attending the debate, which will be held on the campus of the Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University.

In another concession to the pandemic, there will not be a post-debate spin room, either. Rather, media outlets will have to schedule interviews with surrogates for the campaigns.

After a coin flip, it was determined that the first question of the 90-minute showdown will go to Trump. The president will stand to the right and Biden to the left.

The negotiations were described as amicable. Biden was represented by Brady Williamson, an attorney and longtime Democratic hand. Trump was represented by Rick Ahearn, who also helped lead debate negotiations for him in 2016, and Max Miller, the deputy campaign manager for presidential operations.

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