By Ted Scouten

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Miami has already been home to one debate this presidential election cycle when the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts hosted the Democratic Primary debates.

Now, the center will take the spotlight again on October 15th when President Donald Trump and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden take part in a town hall-style debate with local residents posing the questions.

“I think it’s exciting that in mid-October, a couple of weeks before the election, the presidential committee has decided to have such an important debate here in Miami,” said the city’s Mayor Francis Suarez.

Suarez said the fact that Florida will be in the national spotlight speaks volumes.

“I think that highlights the importance of Miami and the State of Florida in terms of who the next President of the United States is going to be,” he said.

“The decision to bring it to Florida, however, says a lot about how important Florida is going to be for the upcoming election. Florida is a state the president must win. If he loses Florida, he has no chance of winning reelection,” said Charles Zelden, a professor of History and Political Science at Nova Southeastern University.

Zelden said as the country’s largest swing state, this debate will be critical to determining who will win our 29 electoral votes.

“A good debate can make all the difference in the world for either candidate. And holding it in Florida just means there are going to be a lot of Florida eyes on that debate and that could help a lot or hurt a lot with the vote in Florida,” he said.

He said the timing is worth noting too.

“It’s in October that a lot of people make their decision. They’ve been thinking about it, they know who they may or may not like, but in October that’s when they decide who they’re going to vote for,” said Zelden.

The debate was supposed to be at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. It backed out saying it’s not feasible right now due to coronavirus concerns. At this point, we still don’t know what the debate will look like here, except that the debate committee said it will follow all local COVID-19 protocols.

“Obviously, today we’re not in phase 3 so that event could not be held in the Arsht Center with an entirely full Arsht Center. But we don’t know where we’re going to be three months from now,” said Suarez.

Florida also takes the national political spotlight in August when President Trump will be in Jacksonville to accept the Republican nomination.

The Miami debate will be the second of three debates between Trump and Biden.

The first debate will be Tuesday, September 29th, at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. The third will be Thursday, October 22, at Belmont University in Nashville.

The first and third presidential debates will be divided into six 15-minute segments. The topics for the six segments will be selected and announced by each moderator at least one week before each debate. This is the same format as was used in 2012 and 2016.

This will be the second presidential debate hosted in Miami. The first 2004 presidential debate took place at the University of Miami.

Ted Scouten

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