US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden delivers remarks at a voter mobilisation event campaign stop at the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Oct 12, 2020. (Photo: Reuters/Tom Brenner)

WASHINGTON - Reuters
Trump and Biden to headline duelling town halls

President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden will hold duelling prime-time town halls on Thursday (Oct 15) instead of their second presidential debate, which was cancelled after Trump declined to take part in a virtual matchup.

The twin events, in which each candidate will field questions from voters, will both take place at 8pm EDT (8am Singapore time on Friday), with Trump on NBC and Biden on ABC.

Trump pulled out of the debate when the commission in charge of organising the event said it would be held virtually due to concerns about COVID-19.

The president announced on Oct 2 that he had contracted the disease, but he has returned to the campaign trail after treatment, which included several days in a military hospital.

In announcing the Trump town hall on Wednesday, NBC said it had obtained a statement on Trump's health from Dr Clifford Lane, clinical director at the National Institutes of Health.

NBC said Dr Lane and the government's top infectious disease specialist, Dr Anthony Fauci, concluded "with a high degree of confidence" that Trump was no longer "shedding infectious virus".

Dr Fauci confirmed the statement in an interview with CBS on Wednesday, citing tests that Trump had recently taken.

With less than three weeks until the Nov 3 election and millions of ballots already cast in early voting, Trump, a Republican, is still searching for ways to change the dynamics of a race in which Biden has a double-digit advantage in national polls.

A record nearly 15 million Americans have cast ballots so far, according to the US Elections Project at the University of Florida, as voters seek to avoid in-person lines on Election Day because of the coronavirus pandemic.

North Carolina, a highly competitive state, begins more than two weeks of in-person early voting on Thursday.

Both candidates have been visiting crucial states this week, with Trump holding rallies in Florida, Pennsylvania and Iowa and Biden travelling to Ohio and Florida.

Trump on Wednesday pulled into a statistical tie with Biden in Florida, a key battleground, with 47 per cent support versus Biden's 49 per cent, and a credibility interval of 4 points, a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll showed. 

Biden's lead widened in Arizona and he had a 10-point advantage nationally among likely voters.

Trump's town hall will take place in Miami, while Biden will appear in Philadelphia.

The broadcasts are unlikely to draw the massive audience that typically tunes into presidential debates, based on ratings for previous events.

The third presidential debate is scheduled for Oct 22 in Nashville, Tennessee.

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