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The Mohawk Institute: A first look at the former residential school, preserved to tell its history

Melanie Ng and Talia Knezic | posted Wednesday, Sep 30th, 2020

Warning: The story and video contain details that are graphic and may be disturbing.

 

 

The Mohawk Institute in Brantford is one of two remaining former residential schools in Ontario. Other such buildings have been torn down or converted, but the hope is that this location is preserved for better understanding and learning. Breakfast Television is the first media to walk through this building since undergoing renovations, with host Melanie Ng taken on the tour.

Each room, each wall, and each door holds within it decades of pain and suffering. Carley Gallant-Jenkins, a coordinator for “Save The Evidence,” speaks of its history. Established in 1831, children from Six Nations were taken away from their parents and brought here to assimilate — with the goal of eliminating their Indigenous cultures and language.

Entering the various rooms, Gallant-Jenkins points out what would occur in each, starting with the boys’ side of the building.

“Teachers and faculty who worked here would pull boys out of their beds at night, bring them down here, make them fight, and they’d watch through windows,” Gallant-Jenkins says.

“The boy who lost would have to clean up afterwards. The boy who won would get extra perks,” she adds, referring to the ‘fight hallway.’

Moving to the boiler room, we learn that physical and sexual abuse often took place in these types of areas because of how loud they were.

“One of the girls’ roles was to do laundry for students and the surrounding community,” Gallant-Jenkins says.

“They were hired out from the school to do the community’s laundry; the school was profiting off of their labour.”

The cafeteria, which was a gathering space where siblings could catch a glimpse of one another, was separated by gender and number.

“They did do their best to try and separate family units,” Gallant-Jenkins says.

In 1970, The Mohawk Institute closed its doors but reopened two years later as the Woodland Cultural Centre. It was deemed a local historic site so that decisions would remain within the hands of the community.

The centre was designed to promote First Nations culture and heritage. After a major flood in 2013 caused severe damage to the building, the community voted to rebuild it.

“If this is a pile of rubble with a plaque in front of it saying what it was, it’s not the same as walking through these hallways and standing where these children stood,” Gallant-Jenkins says when asked why the decision to restore the building was made.

The “Save The Evidence” campaign cost millions of dollars. The ideal timeline was for the building to open its doors again in 2020, but fundraising efforts were hampered due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With hundreds of thousands more to raise, organizers are now hoping for a 2022 opening.

“I think I want people, personally, to be left with the resilience, to see what happened to these people, and to see where these communities are today,” Gallant-Jenkins says.

Click here for more information on the Save The Evidence campaign.

Click here to join a virtual tour of your own, for a small fee to support fundraising efforts.

Police investigate report of gunfire near Driftwood Avenue and Yorkwoods Gate

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Sep 30th, 2020

Toronto police are investigating a shooting incident in the Driftwood Avenue and Yorkwoods Gate area.

Police tweeted at around 9:35 p.m. Tuesday that they had received a report of gunfire in the area.

When officers arrived, they found multiple gun shell casings at the scene.

Witnesses told investigators a man was seen running to a nearby vehicle, which is described as being white in colour and equipped with silver rims.

In total, police said there appear to be two people involved with the incident.

The first suspect is described as a male with braided hair. He was seen wearing white pants and a white sweater.

The second suspect is also male. He was seen wearing a black sweater, a black jacket and jeans.

Police said they continue to investigate the incident.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the police directly. Tips can also be left anonymously with Crime Stoppers.

Toronto police investigate shooting allegedly involving a tow truck

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Sep 30th, 2020

Toronto police say they are investigating a shooting allegedly involving a tow truck.

Police said they were called at around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday to the Midland Avenue and Ellesmere Road area for a report of gunfire.

When officers arrived shortly after, they found blood at the scene, but no victims or suspects.

Witnesses told investigators the shooter fled in a tow truck and that a victim left the scene in a black Range Rover SUV.

Later, police said a man was dropped off at a hospital suffering from a gunshot wound. He is listed as having serious injuries.

It is not clear if the man in the hospital is connected to the alleged shooting at Midland Avenue and Ellesmere Road.

Investigators said they are dealing with multiple crime scenes.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the police directly. Tips can also be left anonymously with Crime Stoppers.

 

FACT CHECK: Claims from Trump and Biden’s first debate

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Wednesday, Sep 30th, 2020

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden sparred Tuesday in their first of three debates, hoping to sway undecided voters planning to cast ballots by mail and in person in the final weeks leading up to the Nov. 3 election.

A look at how their statements from Cleveland stack up with the facts:

ECONOMY

BIDEN: Trump will be the “first (president) in American history” to lose jobs during his presidency.

THE FACTS: No, if Trump loses re-election, he would not be the first president in U.S. history to have lost jobs. That happened under Herbert Hoover, the president who lost the 1932 election to Franklin Roosevelt as the Great Depression caused massive job losses.

Official jobs records only go back to 1939 and, in that period, no president has ended his term with fewer jobs than when he began. Trump appears to be on track to have lost jobs during his first term, which would make him the first to do so since Hoover.

___

VIRUS RESPONSE

TRUMP, on coronavirus and his campaign rallies: “So far we have had no problem whatsoever. It’s outside, that’s a big difference according to the experts. We have tremendous crowds.”

THE FACTS: That’s not correct.

Trump held an indoor rally in Tulsa in late June, drawing both thousands of participants and large protests.

The Tulsa City-County Health Department director said the rally “likely contributed” to a dramatic surge in new coronavirus cases there. By the first week of July, Tulsa County was confirming more than 200 new daily cases, setting record highs. That’s more than twice the number the week before the rally.

___

TRUMP, addressing Biden: “You didn’t do very well on the swine flu. H1N1. You were a disaster.”

THE FACTS: Trump frequently distorts what happened in the pandemic of 2009, which killed far fewer people in the United States than the coronavirus is killing now. For starters, Biden as vice-president wasn’t running the federal response. And that response was faster out of the gate than when COVID-19 came to the U.S.

Then, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s flu surveillance network sounded the alarm after two children in California became the first people diagnosed with the new flu strain in this country.

About two weeks later, the Obama administration declared a public health emergency against H1N1, also known as the swine flu, and the CDC began releasing anti-flu drugs from the national stockpile to help hospitals get ready. In contrast, Trump declared a state of emergency in early March, seven weeks after the first U.S. case of COVID-19 was announced, and the country’s health system struggled for months with shortages of critical supplies and testing.

More than 200,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the U.S. The CDC puts the U.S. death toll from the 2009-2010 H1N1 pandemic at about 12,500.

___

TRUMP, addressing Biden on U.S. deaths from COVID-19: “If you were here, it wouldn’t be 200,000 people, it would be 2 million people. You didn’t want me to ban China, which was heavily infected…. If we would have listened to you, the country would have been left wide open.”

THE FACTS: This accusation is off the mark. Biden never came out against Trump’s decision to restrict travel from China. Biden was slow in staking a position on the matter but when he did, he supported the restrictions. Biden never counselled leaving the country “wide open” in the face of the pandemic.

Trump repeatedly, and falsely, claims to have banned travel from China. He restricted it.

The U.S. restrictions that took effect Feb. 2 continued to allow travel to the U.S. from China’s Hong Kong and Macao territories over the past five months. The Associated Press reported that more than 8,000 Chinese and foreign nationals based in those territories entered the U.S. in the first three months after the travel restrictions were imposed.

Additionally, more than 27,000 Americans returned from mainland China in the first month after the restrictions took effect. U.S. officials lost track of more than 1,600 of them who were supposed to be monitored for virus exposure.

Dozens of countries took similar steps to control travel from hot spots before or around the same time the U.S. did.

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WATCH: Trump, Biden face off in first presidential debate

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FOOTBALL

TRUMP: “I’m the one who brought back football. By the way, I brought back Big Ten football. It was me and I’m very happy to do it.”

THE FACTS: Better check the tape. While Trump had called for the Big Ten conference to hold its 2020 football season, he wasn’t the only one. Fans, students, athletes and college towns had also urged the conference to resume play.

When the Big Ten announced earlier this month that it reverse an earlier decision to cancel the season because of COVID-19, Trump tweeted his thanks: “It is my great honour to have helped!!!”

The conference includes several large universities in states that could prove pivotal in the election, including Pennsylvania, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin.

___

SUPREME COURT

BIDEN, on Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett: “She thinks that the Affordable Care Act is not constitutional.”

THE FACTS: That’s not right.

Biden is talking about Trump’s pick to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Barrett has been critical of the Obama-era law and the court decisions that have upheld it, but she has never said it’s not constitutional. The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case on Nov. 10, and the Trump administration is asking the high court to rule the law unconstitutional.

___

HEALTH CARE

TRUMP: “Drug prices will be coming down 80 or 90%.”

THE FACTS: That’s a promise, not a reality.

And as a promise, it’s an obvious stretch.

Trump has been unable to get legislation to lower drug prices through Congress. Major regulatory actions from his administration are still in the works, and are likely to be challenged in court.

There’s no plan on the horizon that would lower drug prices as dramatically as Trump claims.

___

DELAWARE STATE

TRUMP: “You said you went to Delaware State, but you forgot the name of your college. You didn’t go to Delaware State. … There’s nothing smart about you, Joe.”

THE FACTS: Trump is quoting Biden out of context. The former vice-president, a graduate of the University of Delaware, did not say he attended Delaware State University but was making a broader point about his long-standing ties to the Black community.

Trump is referring to remarks Biden often says on the campaign, typically when speaking to Black audiences, that he “goes way back with HBCUs,” or historically Black universities and colleges. Biden has spoken many times over the years at Delaware State, a public HBCU in his home state, and the school says that’s where he first announced his bid for the Senate _ his political start.

“I got started out of an HBCU, Delaware State _ now, I don’t want to hear anything negative about Delaware State,” Biden told a town hall in Florence, South Carolina, in October 2019. “They’re my folks.”

Biden often touts his deep political ties to the Black community, occasionally saying he “grew up politically” or “got started politically” in the Black church. In front of some audiences, he’s omitted the word “politically,” but still with a clear context about his larger point. The statements are all part of standard section of his stump noting that Delaware has “the eighth largest Black population by percentage.”

A spokesman for the Delaware State University, Carlos Holmes, has said it took Biden’s comments to refer to his political start, saying that Biden announced his bid for the U.S. Senate on the DSU campus in 1972.

Biden’s broader point is push back on the idea that he’s a Johnny-Come-Lately with the Black community or that his political connections there are owed only to being Barack Obama’s vice-president.

___

Associated Press writers Josh Boak, Ellen Knickmeyer, Calvin Woodward, Hope Yen, Mark Sherman, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Bill Barrow, David Klepper and Amanda Seitz contributed to this report.

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EDITOR’S NOTE — A look at the veracity of claims by political figures.

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Find AP Fact Checks at http://apnews.com/APFactCheck

U.S. Presidential debate veers from ‘How you doing?’ to ‘Will you shut up?’

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS VIA CP | posted Wednesday, Sep 30th, 2020

CLEVELAND — It started out civil enough, with President Donald Trump striding deliberately to his lectern, and Democrat Joe Biden nodding to his opponent and offering, “How you doing, man?”

Within 15 minutes, the interruptions and talking over one another at Tuesday’s presidential debate had deteriorated to the point that Biden blurted out, “Will you shut up, man?”

There were no handshakes to start the first presidential debate of the 2020 general election. The traditional nicety was one of several formalities abandoned because of the ongoing pandemic.

The 90-minute faceoff played out in a makeshift debate hall with a crowd of under 100 people due to coronavirus safety restrictions, in an atrium that previously was set up for use as a hospital for COVID-19 patients.

Trump kept up his badgering of Biden, drawing a string of rejoinders from the Democrat, including a plea to “just shush for a minute” at the half-hour mark.

At other points, the two candidates dialed down their rhetoric, but then the interruptions would spring up again. When Trump was fielding a question about reports he paid just $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017, Biden was the one interjecting: “Show us your taxes. Show us your taxes.”

The reaction from the mask-wearing crowd was inaudible on television as Trump frequently talked over Biden. There was no discernible response when the former vice-president called the sitting president a “clown” and frustratedly told him to “keep yapping.”

In the first head-to-head debate, the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic could not be missed. Crowds and pageantry were out. COVID-19 tests and masks were in.

Trump came out of the gate looking to challenge Biden at every turn — and the former vice-president’s patience was soon spent.

“Will you shut up, man!” Biden snapped, drawing laughs loud enough that they could be heard through the masks from the atypically small debate crowd.

Roughly 50 minutes into the debate, moderator Chris Wallace’s frustration came to a boil, as he tried to remain even-keeled and stop the rivals from talking over each other.

“Gentlemen, I hate to raise my voice, but why should I be any different than the two of you?” Wallace said.

Trump blamed Biden, but Wallace firmly pushed back to the president, “Frankly, you’ve been doing more interrupting.”

Presidential debates are typically some of the most exciting nights of the campaign season, drawing thousands of staffers, media and guests.

But this year, as with almost everything else, things were very, very different, with a long list of precautions in place before Trump and Biden took the stage.

Instead of the usual auditorium setting, the debate was hosted by the Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University in the spacious 27,000-square-foot (2,500-square-meter) atrium of the Sheila and Eric Samson Pavilion on the clinic’s Health Education Campus. Notre Dame, the original debate host, withdrew because of the pandemic.

Earlier this year, the building had been transformed into a temporary, 1,000-bed surge hospital, named Hope Hospital, for expected coronavirus patients. Though it never ended up needing to be used, the floor where the debate stage was built was not long ago lined with beds for patients and copper piping to bring in oxygen.

The atrium, with its skylighted roof, was turned into a makeshift debate hall with a stage, red carpeting and elevated platforms for cameras. About 100 people watched, all of whom were tested for the virus.

Each candidate’s campaign was given 20 tickets to hand out to guests, said White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. Trump’s guests included his wife, Melania, and his four adult children. Seats were set with programs and anti-bacterial wipes.

Some in Trump’s section tried to greet the first lady with a standing ovation as she walked in, but with the sparse crowd it didn’t quite come together.

As the crowd filed in before the start of the debate, nearly all were abiding by the social distancing and mask wearing rules. One audience member even wore a bright red MAGA face mask, technically a violation of rules prohibiting campaign paraphernalia.

The emptiness of the room only made the sharpness of the candidates’ verbal slugfest, which often took the tone of a schoolyard squabble, more notable.

“The fact is that everything he’s saying so far is simply a lie,” a flustered Biden snapped when Trump suggested that the vice-president stole the nomination from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. “I’m not here to call out his lies. Everybody knows he’s a liar.”

___

Madhani reported from Chicago.

3 women injured, suspect dead in Mississauga assault

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Sep 29th, 2020

Three women are in hospital and a man is dead after an assault overnight in Mississauga.

Emergency crews were called to an apartment building on Ponytrail Drive, in the Burnhamthorpe Road East and Rathburn Road East area, around 1 a.m. Tuesday.

The assault happened inside the home of one of the victims.

Police say the three woman, one believed to be in her 20s, the second believed to be in her 50s, and the third believed to be in her 80s, suffered serious but not life-threatening injuries.

The suspect, a 45-year-old man, was found dead in a wooded area near the apartment.

There has been no word on how the suspect and the victims may have known each other, or what prompted the attack.

Tampa Bay beats Dallas to capture Stanley Cup in six games

The Canadian Press | posted Tuesday, Sep 29th, 2020

EDMONTON — The Tampa Bay Lightning are the 2020 Stanley Cup champions, hoisting the NHL’s championship trophy Monday in a near-empty Rogers Place to cap off a surreal, bifurcated, bubbled hockey season for the ages.

Brayden Point and Blake Coleman scored the goals and Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 22 shots for his first career playoff shutout in a 2-0 win, giving Tampa Bay a 4-2 triumph in the best-of-seven series.

The Lightning players exploded off the bench as the seconds ticked to zero, swarming Vasilevskiy, their whoops and hollers echoing off the empty seats and capacious tarps.

No fans have been allowed in to these so-called bubbled playoffs, with players isolated between contests to prevent contracting COVID-19.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman walked out to centre ice to award the trophy, but this time not accompanied by the lowing boos from fans that had become an unofficial league tradition.

“To win in this place at this time under these circumstances is remarkable and frankly overwhelming,” said Bettman before he handed the silver barrel-and-bowl trophy to Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, who proceeded to lift it with two hands over his head.

In a twist on the usual Cup presentation, the players, coaches and staff gathered around Bettman, instead of standing off to the side as he officially awarded the Cup to Stamkos.

The players cheered, fireworks went off behind the players’ benches and other devices delivered bursts of flames, the heat of which could be felt high up in the arena.

Stamkos did not dress for the game, and played only 2:47 in the entire playoffs due to injury. He came out in his hockey equipment and jersey to accept the award and his first Stanley Cup.

“I’m speechless,” said Stamkos in an on-ice interview.

“I’m so proud of this team and everything that we’ve accomplished.

“It’s one of the greatest feelings, and to be able to celebrate with this group of guys is a dream come true.”

The traditional skate around the ice, hoisting the cup in front of rapturous fans, was altered to the players skating around centre ice, clapping and celebrating as each one in turn took a spin with the mug amid rock music pumped over the loudspeaker.

Fans celebrating in Tampa were shown on all four sides of the video screen that hangs over centre ice.

Tampa defenceman Victor Hedman was voted the winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

It’s the second Stanley Cup in the 28-year history of the franchise. The first was in 2004.

It’s the first Cup for every Lightning player except Pat Maroon. The burly, bearded veteran winger won it all last season with the St. Louis Blues.

It’s also the first Cup win for head coach Jon Cooper, in his seventh full season behind the Lightning bench.

He defeated Dallas interim head coach Rick Bowness. Bowness had been hired by Cooper as a mentor in 2013 and served the next five years with the Lightning as his assistant. This was the first Stanley Cup where an assistant faced his former head coach.

Vasilevskiy was 18-7 of the post-season. The 26-year-old Russian played every minute of every game for the Lightning through 25 games.

Tampa Bay outshot Dallas 29-22.

Point scored on the power play midway through the first period, sailing through the slot untouched and putting his own rebound past Dallas goalie Anton Khudobin. Coleman made it 2-0 by capitalizing on a turnover midway through the second frame, one-timing a cross-ice pass from Cedric Paquette.

Nikita Kucherov assisted on Point’s goal and was the NHL’s top scorer in the playoffs: seven goals and 34 points. Point was second at 14 goals and 33 points.

The Bolts had been knocking on the Cup door in recent years, making the final four in four of the last six seasons. In 2015 they lost to Chicago 4-2 in the Stanley Cup final.

Nine members of the current Tampa roster, including Kucherov, Stamkos, Hedman, Ondrej Palat, Alex Killorn, Vasilevskiy, and Tyler Johnson were on that Cup-losing squad.

It’s a capstone to bizarre season that began as normal in October 2019, but was halted, and ultimately cancelled around the 70-game mark, on March 12, due to COVID-19.

The NHL resumed play at the start of August in a 24-team, two-month tournament, held in hub cities of Toronto and Edmonton, with players and staff isolated and tested regularly to prevent contracting COVID-19. The NHL reported Monday there had been no positive tests in the nine-week bubble.

The conference championships and the Cup final were held at Rogers Place, the players skating, shooting, and scoring to the sounds of canned oohs, ahhs and cheers.

This is the first time the Stanley Cup has been awarded in the Alberta capital since the Edmonton Oilers won it in the spring of 1988.

The Lightning finished fourth in the regular season (43-21-6) and were a model of consistency in the tournament.

They went 18-7, never lost two games in a row, and shut down the top three defensive teams in the league (Boston, Dallas, and Columbus).

The Bolts were overtime warriors, going 7-2 in extra-session games, including a marathon five-overtime win over the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round.

The Lightning played 221:14 total in overtime, more than any team in playoff history.

Hedman _ all six-foot-six of him _ was the rock, filling the leadership void when Stamkos went down in late February for core muscle surgery and then was re-injured before the playoffs began anew.

The 29-year-old Swede, in his 11th year in Tampa Bay, scored 10 goals, added 12 assists in the playoffs, ate up 26 minutes a night playing at even strength and on special teams, ignited the offence with seeing-eye tape-to-tape passes, and punished those who crossed his blue-line.

The Bolts were the top scoring team in the regular season (3.47 goals a game) and their best marksmen got the job done in the post season. The top line of Point, Kucherov and Palat delivered eight goals and 21 points against Dallas and accounted for about 40 per cent of all team points in the playoffs.

When the opposition got past the defence, Vasilevskiy was there to shut the door, compiling a .927 save percentage in the playoffs.

The Stars franchise is now 1-4 in Cup play, dating back to its Minnesota roots. The lone championship came in 1999.

Dallas made it all the way to its first final series in two decades due mainly to the storybook play of Khudobin, a career journeyman backup elevated into the starter’s role for almost the entire post-season run after Ben Bishop was injured.

The 34-year-old from Kazakhstan absorbed a shooting gallery of vulcanized rubber: more than 30 shots in 15 games and 40 or more seven times. He was the deciding factor in the third-round series against the Vegas Golden Knights, saving all but nine of 161 shots over five games (.950 save percentage).

The Stars faced Tampa after being outscored 64-62 to that point in the post-season, but were the comeback kids of the playoffs, coming back to win nine times.

They won with stout defence and timely goals by committee, with veteran forwards like Jamie Benn, Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry stepping up when others flagged. First-line centre Tyler Seguin never found his groove, scoring just twice in 26 games.

The defence led the offence. Defenders John Klingberg and Miro Heiskanen combined for 10 goals and 47 points.

Dallas was laid low by injuries to not only Bishop but also defencemen and key depth forwards: Stephen Johns, Taylor Fedun, Radek Faksa, Roope Hintz, and Blake Comeau. The Stars kept having to dip into their pool of Black Aces and ultimately the next man up became one injury too many.

For Tampa, the win will undoubtedly go a long way to washing away the bitter taste of last year’s humiliating playoff debacle. The Lightning won 62 wins in the regular season _ tying an NHL record _ then lost four straight games in the first round to the Blue Jackets.

Following that loss, Tampa decided its high-flying offence needed more edge, pushback, and just plain nastiness. General manager Julien BriseBois signed Maroon and defenceman Kevin Shattenkirk in the off-season.

At the trade deadline, BriseBois inked defender Zach Bogosian, and traded a top prospect and high draft picks for bruising two-way wingers Coleman and Barclay Goodrow.

They proved to be the difference, with the new-look Lightning able to lock down late-game leads and, to paraphrase Conn Smythe, beat opponents on the ice and in the alley.

It was a year of firsts: the first time two teams from cities that never see snow battled it out in an empty arena on the Canadian prairie in late September for the Stanley Cup.

But in the year of COVID _ where the only consistency has been contradiction and people must stay apart if they ever want to get together again _ the Lightning fit right in, proving that if you want to polish the Stanley Cup, maybe just add a bit of grit.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 28, 2020.

Trump, Biden prepare to debate at a time of mounting crises

JONATHAN LEMIRE AND JILL COLVIN, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Tuesday, Sep 29th, 2020

In an election year like no other, the first debate between President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, could be a pivotal moment in a race that has remained stubbornly unchanged in the face of historic tumult.

The Tuesday night debate will offer a massive platform for Trump and Biden to outline their starkly different visions for a country facing multiple crises, including racial justice protests and a pandemic that has killed more than 200,000 Americans and cost millions of jobs.

The health emergency has upended the usual trappings of a presidential campaign, lending heightened importance to the debate. But amid intense political polarization, comparatively few undecided voters remain, raising questions as to how, or if, the debate might shape a race that has been defined by its bitterness and, at least so far, its stability.

Biden will step onto the Cleveland stage holding leads in the polls — significant in the national surveys, closer in the battleground states — but facing questions about his turn in the spotlight, particularly considering Trump’s withering attacks. And Trump, with only 35 days to change the course of the race, will have arguably his best chance to try to reframe the campaign as a choice election and not a referendum over his handling of a virus that has killed more people in America than any other nation.

“This will be the first moment in four years that someone will walk on stage as co-equal to Trump and be able to hold him to account for the malfeasance he has shown leading the country,” said Steve Schmidt, senior campaign aide for John McCain’s 2008 Republican presidential bid and a frequent Trump critic. “If Biden is unable to indict Trump for all that he has done, (that) would be profound failure. There is no spinning that away.”

The president’s handling of the coronavirus will likely dominate much of the discussion. The pandemic’s force will be tangible as the candidates’ podiums will be spaced far apart and the traditional opening handshake scrapped.

And the debate could be shaped by an extraordinary confluence of other recent moments: the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, allowing Trump to nominate a conservative jurist to replace a liberal voice and reshape the high court for generations, and the blockbuster revelations about Trump’s long-hidden tax history, including that he paid only $750 a year in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017 and nothing in many other years.

But the impact of the debate — or the two that follow in the weeks ahead — remains unclear.

The tumult of 2020 is difficult to overstate: COVID-19 has rewritten the rules of everyday life; schools and businesses are shuttered; and racial justice protests have swept the nation after a series of high-profile killings of Black people by police.

Despite the upheaval, the presidential race has remained largely unchanged since Biden seized control of the Democratic field in March. The nation has soured on Trump’s handling of the pandemic, and while his base of support has remained largely unchanged, he has seen defections among older and female voters, particularly in the suburbs, and his path to 270 Electoral College votes, while still viable, has shrunk.

Polls suggest fewer undecided voters remain than at this point in the 2016 campaign. And several high-profile debates in past elections that were thought to be game-changing moments at the time ultimately had little lasting effect.

Four years ago, Democrat Hillary Clinton was widely seen as besting Trump in their three debates, but she lost in November. In 2012, Mitt Romney crushed Barack Obama in their first meeting only to falter in the rematches.

But some debates have mattered: most famously, a turning point in the 1960 race was when John F. Kennedy was perceived — at least by TV viewers — as outdueling Richard Nixon. And in 1980, Ronald Reagan was able to reassure nervous voters that he possessed a presidential temperament when he delivered a winning performance against incumbent Jimmy Carter.

While both sides anticipate a vicious debate between two men who do not like each other, the Biden campaign has downplayed the night’s importance, believing that the pandemic and the battered economy will outweigh any debate stage gaffe or zinger. Conversely, the Trump campaign has played up the magnitude of the duel, believing it will be a moment for the president to damage Biden and recast the race.

Trump had told advisers that he is preparing an all-out assault on Biden, claiming that the former senator’s 47 years in Washington have left him out of touch and that his family, namely his son Hunter, has benefited from corruption. The president on Monday also repeated his demand that Biden take some sort of drug test, asserting without evidence that the Democratic nominee was somehow using a performance enhancer.

That continued a curious round of expectations setting: While Trump’s campaign has of late praised Biden’s debate skills, the president has also vividly portrayed his opponent as not being up to the job, potentially allowing Biden to come off well as long as he avoids a major stumble.

“This guy doesn’t have a clue. He doesn’t know where the hell he is,” Trump said recently, likening the debate to a boxing match and pointing to his head. “To win matches you need that up here. This wins, probably, it’s 50% of it. This is not prime time for Joe.”

But Trump — never a polished debater, though a commanding presence on stage — has done little in the way of formal preparations, which may mean he is walking into his own trap.

“Historically, incumbents do less well in the first debate, largely because they’re unaccustomed to being challenged openly,” said presidential historian Jon Meacham. “The most important single debate in terms of direct impact on outcome came 40 years ago, with the single Carter-Reagan meeting a week before the election. The key question then — ‘Are you better off than you were four years ago?’ — has fresh and compelling resonance.”

Biden’s performances during the primary debates were uneven, and some Democrats have been nervous as to how he will fare in an unscripted setting. But his team views the night as a moment to illuminate Trump’s failings with the pandemic and economy, with the former vice-president acting as a “fact checker on the floor” while bracing himself for the onslaught that is coming.

“They’re going to be mostly personal,” Biden said. “That’s the only thing he knows how to do. He doesn’t know how to debate the facts because he’s not that smart. He doesn’t know that many facts.”

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