By LIBBY CATHEY and ADIA ROBINSON, ABC News

(PHILADELPHIA) — With less than three weeks to Election Day, Democratic nominee for president Joe Biden will face voters directly in an ABC News Town Hall from the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on Thursday night.

https://www.robinsonfuller.com/

The live special edition of “20/20” — titled “The Vice President and the People” — will be moderated by ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos and airs from 8 to 10 p.m. ET on ABC Television Network and streams on ABC News Live. A 30-minute post-show, featuring the ABC News political team for more context and analysis, will follow the town hall portion.

The primetime event comes after a fiery back-and-forth on the fate of the second presidential debate, which was originally scheduled for Thursday in Miami but ultimately canceled last Friday.

The nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates changed its format to be virtual following President Donald Trump’s positive COVID-19 diagnosis, to which Trump took issue, saying he wouldn’t “waste” time in a virtual debate. With Trump’s rejection of the event, Biden then agreed to participate in the town hall with ABC.

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Voters will have the opportunity to ask the former vice president the questions most important to them

The event will be held in accordance with state and local government health and safety regulations, as well as guidelines set forward by health officials.

Trump, at the same time Thursday, is participating in a town hall from Miami with NBC News. The president participated in an ABC News town hall in September.

https://www.robinsonfuller.com/

Here’s how the news is developing today. All times Eastern.

Oct 15, 9:51 pm
FACT CHECK: Biden claims Trump has no clear plan for vaccine distribution. But the Trump administration has outlined a plan.

BIDEN’S CLAIM: Biden claimed that neither he nor the doctors he has spoken with had not seen a plan from the administration to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine. “There should be a plan,” he said. “When we have the vaccine, how do we distribute it?”
 
FACT CHECK: The Trump administration does have a plan to distribute a potential COVID-19 vaccine, although the president has misrepresented how quickly it could be distributed.
 
Some of that plan was outlined in a Sept. 16 “Distribution Strategy,” released jointly by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Defense.
 
The documents, according to HHS, provide an overview of distribution plans along with guidelines for “state, tribal, territorial, and local public health programs and their partners on how to plan and operationalize a vaccination response to COVID-19” in their communities.
 
The Trump administration also created “Operation Warp Speed,” a partnership between HHS and DOD, as well as other private and federal agencies, to accelerate the research, development and eventual distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.
 
HHS Secretary Alex Azar has said that as part of Operation Warp Speed, federal officials have been laying the groundwork for vaccine delivery. “This in-depth, round-the-clock planning work with our state and local partners and trusted community organizations, especially through CDC, will ensure that Americans can receive a safe and effective vaccine in record time,” Azar said in a press release last month.
 
Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention executed a contract with McKesson — the company that distributes the annual flu vaccine — to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available.
 
Trump, though, has exaggerated how quickly most Americans could receive it, suggesting it would be widely available by the end of the year or even sooner. Federal public health officials and outside experts say most Americans will not be able to get vaccinated until well into next year.

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-ABC News’ Arielle Mitropoulos and Sony Salzman

Oct 15, 9:49 pm
Biden said he expects the next debate to happen

In the last question of the town hall, Stephanopoulos asked Biden if he expects next week’s debate to happen and if he would demand that Trump test negative. Biden said he expects to be at that debate and that he believes Trump will take a COVID-19 test.

He also mentioned that he had taken a COVID-19 test earlier Thursday.

https://www.robinsonfuller.com/

“I just think it’s — it’s just decency. To be able to determine whether or not you are — you’re clear,” Biden said. “I’m less concerned about me than the people, the guys with the cameras, the people working in the, you know, the Secret Service guys you drive up with, all those people.”

“I’m confident that the Cleveland Clinic is the one overseeing it,” he added. “I think they’re going to not let happen, what happened last time. They’re going to demand that it’s safe.”

Oct 15, 9:39 pm
FACT CHECK: Biden correct he maintained officials needed to be in China to monitor virus, but comments lack context

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BIDEN’S CLAIM: “All the way back in the beginning of February, I argued that we should be keeping people in China. And we had set up, in our administration, a pandemic office within the White House.”
 
FACT CHECK: Biden’s comments about what his administration would have done differently at the beginning of the pandemic were lacking some context.
 
What Biden appeared to be referencing was the United States having Centers for Disease Control and Prevention staff based in China in order to monitor the spread of the virus. Reuters reported earlier this year that the Trump administration had cut the number of staff in China by more than two-thirds, mostly over the previous two years in the agency’s Beijing office.
 
In a Democratic presidential primary debate in February, Biden referred to funding cuts for public health agencies. “What I would do immediately is restore the funding,” he said then. “I would be on the phone with China and making it clear, we are going to need to be in your country.”
 
His answer at the town hall Thursday night did not provide that full context, though, which made it sound like he could have been referring to whether he supported putting restrictions on travelers coming from China to the United States, a step President Donald Trump took at the beginning of February.
 
It was not until the beginning of April that Biden’s campaign confirmed in a statement to CNN that he supported Trump’s decision to bar some travel from China, because the move was supported by scientists and medical experts.

-ABC News’ John Verhovek

Oct 15, 9:37 pm
Biden says he will change Trump executive orders on transgender people

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Mieke Haeck, the mother of a transgender child, asked Biden how he would protect LGBTQ rights.

“I will flat-out just change the law. Eliminate those executive orders, number one,” Biden said.

Biden then brought up the high number of trans women of color who had been killed this year, and mentioned his late son Beau, who he said helped get the first transgender rights law passed in that state.

Oct 15, 9:36 pm
Biden criticizes Trump’s foreign policy

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Voter Mark Halfman, who cast a ballot for Trump in 2016, described the president’s foreign policy as a “modern-day miracle” citing his Middle East peace plan and reduction in troops overseas.

He asked Biden if the president deserved some credit, to which the vice president said, “a little but not a whole lot.”

“We find ourselves in a position where we’re more isolated in the world than we ever have been,” Biden said. “‘America first’ has made America alone.”

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Biden cited Trump’s relationship with questionable figures and hurting relationships with America’s democratic allies.

“You see what’s happened and everything from Belarus to Poland … to Hungary and the rise of the totalitarian regimes in the world. And as well as this president embraces all the thugs in the world,” he said.

Oct 15, 9:36 pm
Biden criticizes Trump’s foreign policy

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Voter Mark Halfman, who cast a ballot for Trump in 2016, described the president’s foreign policy as a “modern-day miracle” citing his Middle East peace plan and reduction in troops overseas.

He asked Biden if the president deserved some credit, to which the vice president said, “a little but not a whole lot.”

“We find ourselves in a position where we’re more isolated in the world than we ever have been,” Biden said. “‘America first’ has made America alone.”

https://www.robinsonfuller.com/

Biden cited Trump’s relationship with questionable figures and hurting relationships with America’s democratic allies.

“You see what’s happened and everything from Belarus to Poland … to Hungary and the rise of the totalitarian regimes in the world. And as well as this president embraces all the thugs in the world,” he said.

Oct 15, 9:23 pm
Biden reiterates that he would not ban fracking, discusses the environment

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When asked about the environment, Biden reiterated that he would not ban fracking, calling instead for the practice to be managed “very, very well.”

“I think you have to make sure that fracking is, in fact, not admitting methane or polluting the well or dealing with what can be small earthquakes and how they’re drilling,” he said. “So it has to be managed very, very well.”

The former vice president also said that the future rests in renewable energy and criticized Trump for his comments on the environment.

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“Every time we talk about global warming or the environment, the president thinks of, you know, it’s a joke and I think it’s jobs,” Biden said.

“I, as president, am going to invest that $600 billion we spend on government contracts only on those things that, in fact, also are not only made in America, but building an infrastructure that’s clean and new,” he added.

Stephanopoulos pushed back on Biden, citing a New York Times op-ed written by a member of the Boilermakers Local-154, who said that fracking was at odds with Biden’s goal to end the use of fossil fuels.

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After touting the union’s endorsement, Biden said that he would end oil subsidies. He also tried to distinguish between his plan and the Green New Deal.

“The new green deal calls for the elimination of all — all nonrenewable energy by 2030,” he said.  “You can’t get there. You’re going to need to be able to transition, George, to be able to transition to get to the place where we invest in new technologies that allow us to do things that get us to a place where we get to net zero emission, including in agriculture.”

Oct 15, 9:19 pm
Biden talks about Supreme Court

Biden spoke about the current situation with the Supreme Court and didn’t express confidence in Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s testimony this week.

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“I don’t even think she has laid out much of a judicial philosophy, in terms of the bases upon which she thinks are there unenumerated rights in the Constitution,” he said.

Biden reiterated that her hearings and vote should not have been held this close to the election.

“You get disagreement among scholars on this, but I believe it’s inconsistent, when millions of people have already voted to put someone on the court. I think it … should have been held until … this election is over.

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Stephanopoulos asked Biden if he would consider expanding the Supreme Court, noting that a year ago during a primary debate he was against court packing.

Biden declined to respond, because he said he didn’t want to distract from the biggest issues.

 

https://www.robinsonfuller.com/

.@GStephanopoulos on court packing: “Don’t voters have a right to know where you stand?”

Biden: Voters will know “before they vote.”

GS: “So you’ll come out with a clear position before Election Day?”

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Biden: “Yes, depending on how [GOP] handle this.” https://t.co/vdomLZXGTS pic.twitter.com/NdDCvysLgC

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) October 16, 2020

 

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“No matter what answer I gave you, if I say it, that’s the headline tomorrow. It won’t be about what’s going on now. The improper way they’re proceeding,” he said.

When pressed by Stephanopoulos, Biden said he will have a more clear position before Election Day, “depending on how (the Senate) handled this.”

Biden encouraged voters, however, to use this opportunity to vote for leaders who can influence the courts.

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“That’s your opportunity to get involved in lifetime appointments that have. Presidents come and go, justices stay and stay and stay,” he said.

Oct 15, 9:05 pm
Biden questioned on his support of the 1994 Crime Bill

Angelica Politarhos, a Republican voter from Garnett Valley, Pennsylvania, asked Biden about his view now on the 1994 Crime Bill.

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“Things have changed drastically,” the former vice president said. “That crime bill, when we voted, the black caucus voted for it, every black mayor supported it across the board.”

 

Q: “What’s your view on the crime bill that you wrote in 1994, which showed prejudice against minorities?”

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Biden: “Things have changed drastically…”https://t.co/omGodzYfv1#BidenTownHall pic.twitter.com/7YdzUtlQ5G

— Good Morning America (@GMA) October 16, 2020

 

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When Stephanopoulos asked Biden if it was a mistake to support the bill, he said the mistake occurred at the state level.

“The mistake came in terms of what the states did locally,” he said. “What we did federally, we said it was — you remember, George, it was all about the same time for the same crime.”

Stephanopoulos also asked Biden about previously saying that more police meant less crime. Biden said that only works if those police officers were doing community policing.

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“We had community policing from the mid ’90s on until — until (George W.) Bush got elected, what happened? Violent crime actually went down,” Biden said.

“The cops didn’t like it,” he added. “They didn’t like the community policing because you had to have two people in a vehicle. They had to get out of their cars.”

 

https://www.robinsonfuller.com/

.@GStephanopoulos presses Biden on the 1994 crime bill and if he still believes ‘more cops mean less crime’: “Yes, if in fact they’re involved in community policing and not jump squads.” https://t.co/0oktabkDQM #BidenTownHall pic.twitter.com/h5c6ZqMcsO

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) October 16, 2020

 

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Biden went on to call for de-escalation training for police. “So instead of anybody coming at you and the first thing you do is shoot to kill, you shoot them in the leg,” he said.

He also called for psychologists to accompany police officers on calls where mental health is a factor.

Oct 15, 8:56 pm
Biden speaks on race

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Cedric Humphrey, a Black student, brought up race issues in his question to Biden.

Humphrey noted that young Black voters are conflicted between voting for Trump and not voting. He also made a reference to controversial comments Biden made in May during an interview for a radio show, which he later apologized for.

“So my question for you then is, besides ‘you ain’t black,’ what do you have to say to young black voters who see voting for you as further participation in a system that continually fails to protect them?”

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Biden brought up several proposals including expanding educational opportunities for all Americans, which he said propels people to a better economic standing.

“The federal government spends billions of dollars a year on universities because they’re … the best-kept secret of where most of the major inventions come out of,” he said. “And so that school will now be able to produce young black women and men who are going to go into a field of a future that’s burgeoning.”

 

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“What do you have to say to young Black voters who see voting for you as further participation in a system that continually failed to protect them?”

Joe Biden: “We have to be able to put Black Americans in a position to be able to gain wealth…” https://t.co/vdomLZXGTS pic.twitter.com/pVmPEZ7ALO

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) October 16, 2020

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Biden also said he would expand a program under President Barack Obama that provided over $1.5 billion to small business associations across the country.

Stephanopoulos asked Humphrey if he heard what he needed to hear, to which the voter responded, “I think so.”

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Biden said he would speak with Humphrey after the town hall to answer any more questions.

Oct 15, 8:26 pm
Biden talks about vaccine plan

Biden was asked by Republican Kelly Lee about his views and plans for a future coronavirus vaccine.

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During last week’s vice presidential debate, Sen. Kamala Harris said she would trust scientists over the president with regard to the validity of a vaccine.

Biden warned that Trump’s rhetoric on vaccine and health guidelines have been questionable.

“President Trump says things like, you know, everything from this crazy stuff he’s walking away from now, inject bleach in your arm and that’s going to work,” he said. “I’m not being facetious though. He actually said these things.”

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Biden said that he’s been meeting with scientists and complimented them for their diligence in their research.

“They’re not there yet,” he said. “And the most scientists say — it’s not likely to have a vaccine that would be available until the beginning of next year, into the spring of next year.”

Stephanopoulos asked if Biden would mandate a vaccine’s use once it’s safe and effective. Biden said it would depend on several factors.

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“It depends on the state of the nature of the vaccine when it comes out and how it’s being distributed,” he said. “But I would think that we should be talking about, depending on the continuation of the spread of the virus, we should be thinking about making it mandatory.”

 

Pennsylvania voter asks former VP Biden what his administration would do to deal with COVID-19 that hasn’t been done by the current administration: “There should be a national standard…it is the presidential responsibility to lead.” https://t.co/vdomLZXGTS #BidenTownHall pic.twitter.com/J4UN4JB3PW

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— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) October 16, 2020

 

Oct 15, 8:23 pm
Biden shares how he would’ve responded to COVID-19 looking back

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The first question of the night came from Nicholas Freden, an attorney from Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, who asked how Biden would have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic when it began and what following the science looked like to Biden going forward.

The former vice president responded by what he called for beginning in February, including keeping pandemic investigators on the ground in China and utilizing the Defense Production Act earlier.

Trump “missed enormous opportunities and kept saying things that weren’t true,” Biden said.  “It’s going to go away by Easter. Don’t worry about it. It’s going to all — when the heat — when the summer comes, it’s all going to go away like a miracle. He’s still saying those things.”

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Stephanopoulos pressed Biden, asking why he didn’t call for masks in January and February, early in the pandemic. The former vice president responded by saying he started wearing masks and social distancing in March when scientists, like Dr. Anthony Fauci, began to recommend it.

” What we should be doing now, there should be a national standard,” Biden said. “Remember what the president said to the governors. Well, they’re on their own, it’s not my responsibility, the governors can do what they need to do, not my responsibility. It is a presidential responsibility to lead. And he didn’t do that.”

Oct 15, 8:17 pm
Voter asks Biden about what his admin would handle COVID-19

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A voter asked Biden what his administration would do to deal with COVID-19 that hasn’t been done by the current administration.

“There should be a national standard … it is the presidential responsibility to lead,” Biden said.

 

https://www.robinsonfuller.com/

Pennsylvania voter asks former VP Biden what his administration would do to deal with COVID-19 that hasn’t been done by the current administration: “There should be a national standard…it is the presidential responsibility to lead.” https://t.co/vdomLZXGTS #BidenTownHall pic.twitter.com/J4UN4JB3PW

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) October 16, 2020

 

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Oct 15, 8:01 pm
Trump touts C-SPAN suspension of would-be debate moderator Steve Scully

Trump seized on the announcement from C-SPAN earlier that it has indefinitely suspended its political editor Steve Scully after Scully admitted to lying about his Twitter feed being hacked when confronted about a tweet to former Trump communications director Anthony Scaramucci.

Scully was the surprise pick to moderate the town-hall debate that was supposed to happen Thursday evening, until Trump rejected a virtual format and Biden signed on to the ABC News Town Hall instead.

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Moments after the Associated Press published an apology from Scully, Trump tweeted he was “right again!” and claimed Scully’s lie showed the debate was “rigged” and that his campaign was “not treated fairly by the ‘Commission."”

 

I was right again! Steve Scully just admitted he was lying about his Twitter being hacked. The Debate was Rigged! He was suspended from @cspan indefinitely. The Trump Campaign was not treated fairly by the “Commission”. Did I show good instincts in being the first to know?

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— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 15, 2020

 

A week ago, after Trump called Scully a “never-Trumper,” Scully tagged Scaramucci’s Twitter account in a tweet — in what looked like a direct message gone wrong — and asked, “should I respond to Trump.”

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Scaramucci, a fierce critic of the president, tweeted back his advice: “Ignore. He is having a hard enough time. Some more bad stuff about to go down.”

Scully said once he saw the controversy the exchange had created, he falsely claimed his Twitter account had been hacked.

“These were both errors in judgement for which I am totally responsible for,” Scully said. “I apologize.”

Oct 15, 7:46 pm
Early voting by the numbers

Early voting has already begun in 48 states plus Washington, D.C., with data continuing to hit record numbers across the country.

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In the states reporting data, at least 17.8 million votes have been cast in the 2020 general election and at least 80.7 million ballots have been requested in early voting states.

The large early voting numbers are due to the coronavirus pandemic as well as an increase in voter interest.

However, though millions of ballots have been requested, it’s unclear how many might sit at home unmarked.

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Seven states — California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington — have an all-mail ballot election, meaning every registered voter is automatically sent a ballot.

By Friday, all 50 states plus Washington, D.C., will have some form of early voting underway.

-ABC News’ Kelsey Walsh

Oct 15, 7:19 pm
Biden tests negative for COVID-19 in Thursday test

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Biden has tested negative for COVID-19, according to a new statement Thursday evening, following their announcement earlier in the day that Biden had tested negative Wednesday night.

“Vice President Biden underwent PCR testing for COVID-19 today and COVID-19 was not detected,” the campaign said in the Thursday evening statement.

This test comes after the campaign announced an aviation staffer who flew with Biden Monday and Tuesday of this week, but had no passing or close contact to Biden, tested positive for COVID-19.

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Oct 15, 6:24 pm
Biden tests negative for COVID-19

The Biden campaign announced earlier in the day that the former vice president tested negative for COVID-19 Wednesday night — the eighth publicly announced Biden coronavirus test result.
 
“As part of our regular routine of testing, Vice President Biden underwent PCR testing for COVID-19 last night and COVID-19 was not detected,” the campaign said in a statement.  

It came on the heels of another announcement that a top aide to Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Biden’s running mate, tested positive for COVID-19, prompting Harris to suspend travel “out of an abundance of caution” through Monday.

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Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, both tested negative for COVID-19 Thursday, the campaign said.

-ABC News’ Molly Nagle and Averi Harper

Oct 15, 5:54 pm
Biden, DNC announce $432 million cash on hand

Heading into the town hall, Biden’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee announced they raised a whopping $383 million in the month of September — outpacing their August total of $364.5 million.

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“That’s more money than I’ve ever raised in my whole life!” Biden said in a video posted to Twitter late Wednesday, noting that the average donation was “something like $44 dollars — it was under $50.”

Biden’s campaign manager, Jen O’Malley Dillon added to the announcement, announcing that the campaign has $432 million cash on hand.

“Our success has been driven by our grassroots supporters. $203 million came from online donors. We had 1.1 million new donors last month — bringing the total to 5.5 million donors throughout this campaign. And as a result, we have $432 million in the bank,” O’Malley Dillon tweeted.

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The Trump campaign and Republican National Committee have not yet released September fundraising numbers. In August, they reported raising $210 million along with joint fundraising committees.

Oct 15, 5:23 pm
What happened to the second presidential debate?

The second presidential debate, taking a town-hall format, was originally scheduled for Thursday. Now Biden and Trump are participating in separate town halls.

So what happened?

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Trump disclosed on Twitter on Oct. 2 that he tested positive for COVID-19.

Six days later, the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates announced the second debate in Miami would be virtual. It would maintain its town hall format, but unlike the first debate, the candidates would participate remotely from separate locations.

Biden agreed. Trump did not, telling Fox News moments after the announcement, “I’m not going to waste my time” on a virtual format.

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With the president out, the Biden campaign signed on to an ABC News Town Hall.

The Trump campaign, hours after saying Trump would host a rally on Oct. 15 instead of debating, then said it would participate in the second debate if it was pushed back a week and the final scheduled debate also was pushed back a week.

But the Biden campaign quickly shot down the idea of rearranging the dates, saying they were agreed to back in June.

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So Trump made plans to appear in a NBC town hall in Miami, taking place at the same time as Biden’s ABC News town hall.

Amid the back-and-forth between the campaigns, the Commission on Presidential Debates officially canceled the second debate in a statement last Thursday saying, “It is now apparent there will be no debate on October 15.”

Both candidates have agreed to participate in the third and final debate, which is scheduled for Oct. 22.

Oct 15, 5:14 pm
How to watch ABC News’ Biden town hall

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The live, 90-minute special airs on ABC Television Network at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT.

For those looking for other ways to watch, it will also stream simultaneously on ABC News Live, which is available on Hulu, Roku, YouTube TV, Amazon Fire tablets and TV stick, Xumo, Sling TV, Facebook, Twitter, and the ABC News and ABC mobile apps.

A half-hour post-event show featuring the ABC News political team for more context and analysis will follow the town hall portion and is also available on streaming.

https://www.robinsonfuller.com/

Oct 15, 5:10 pm
Town-hall time arrives as voting turnout smashes records

Biden and Trump will both face voters — albeit not in the way envisioned by the debate commission or really any actual voters.

But however the collective audience sorts through an unusual evening, with Biden at an 8 p.m. ET ABC News forum in Philadelphia, and Trump at a competing event in Miami on NBC, voters are voting — lots of them.

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Records for this far out from Election Day are being set virtually by the hour and in virtually every state. Nationwide, more than 16 million ballots have already been cast, nearly five times the number logged at a similar point in 2016, according to records compiled by the most prominent authority on early voting, Michael McDonald of the University of Florida.

In Georgia, more than 537,000 mail ballots have already been accepted and returned, compared to some 200,000 in all of 2016. The start of in-person voting there brought hours-long lines this week; there have been similar scenes in Texas, where more than half a million voters showed up on the first day available to vote.

Nine states are already above 20% of their total 2016 turnout — Election Day votes included — with nearly three weeks left to vote. In-person voting starts in another key battleground — North Carolina — on Thursday.

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It’s too soon to extrapolate particular outcomes out of the interest in voters casting ballots early. Polls indicate a huge pre-Election-Day edge for Biden, and a sizeable Trump advantage among those who plan to vote on Nov. 3 itself.

Regardless, for all the noise around election integrity and distaste for politics generally, votes are pouring in. Biden and Trump are engaging with voters who have not only mostly made up their minds, but are acting on it every minute of the next 19 days.

-ABC News Political Director Rick Klein

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