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Trump-Biden final debate: Time, how to watch, topics

The candidates will face off on Thursday night in Nashville, Tenn., less than two weeks before Election Day.
Image: President Donald Trump and Joe Biden will participate in a final presidential debate on Thursday night.
President Donald Trump and Joe Biden will participate in a final presidential debate on Thursday night.Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

The second and final presidential debate is set for Thursday night, giving President Donald Trump an opportunity to make up ground against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

Trump, who's trailing in national polling by about 9 points, will have to be more disciplined than he was in the chaotic first debate, while Biden has to avoid any major missteps.

Here's what you need to know:

When & where?

The 90-minute debate is being held at Nashville's Belmont University and is scheduled to begin at 9 p.m. ET.

Who's moderating?

NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker will moderate. Welker co-anchored a Democratic debate in 2019 with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow and Andrea Mitchell.

The award-winning Welker follows in the footsteps of Fox News' Chris Wallace, who was criticized for failing to rein the candidates in at the first debate last month. C-SPAN anchor Steve Scully had been scheduled to moderate the second debate last week, but it was scuttled after Trump backed out of the planned virtual event.

What's the format?

It will mirror the first debate, but with one key difference: The Commission on Presidential Debates announced Monday night that the candidates will have their microphones cut off while their opponent delivers initial two-minute answers to each of the debate's six topics.

The president, who interrupted three times more frequently than Biden did during the first debate, called the change "very unfair."

As was the case with the first debate, there will be no opening or closing statements.

What are the topics?

The commercial-free broadcast will be split into six segments of 15 minutes each ontopics chosen by Welker. Those are: fighting Covid-19, American families, race in America, climate change, national security and leadership.

What about the coronavirus?

The candidates will again skip the traditional handshake before the debate starts, the commission said. Trump, Biden and Welker won't be wearing masks on stage, but audience members will be required to.

Members of the Trump family ignored that mandate at the first debate, two days before the president and first lady announced they'd tested positive for the coronavirus.

How can I watch?

It can be seen live on all the major TV networks, including ABC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, Fox, MSNBC and NBC, and many of the major networks will offer it on their apps. People can also watch via subscription streaming services like Hulu with Live TV, Sling TV and FuboTV and on YouTube.

NBC News and MSNBC will both begin special coverage at 8 p.m. ET.

NBC News NOW will provide free debate coverage beginning at 7 p.m. ET, available to stream live and on demand across OTT platforms, including Peacock, NBCUniversal's new streaming service. will live blog the debate, including fact-checks and analysis.