Debate 2020 Timeline

Timeline of Events

January 2, 2019

The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) opens applications for debate host sites. President Bob Fisher once again spearheads Belmont’s application to host a debate. In 2008, Belmont was chosen as the site for the town hall-style debate with then Senator Barak Obama and Senator John McCain. The 2008 event marked the first presidential debate held in Tennessee.

Belmont University Debate book being held in front of the Bell Tower

Belmont’s 2020 Debate application book held in front of the university’s iconic Bell Tower.

October 11, 2019

Mary Dickens, Bob Fisher, John Cooper, Mark Ezell, Marsha Blackburn, Butch Spryidon, and Megan Hitchcock pose for a photo at the Belmont Debate 2020 Announcement Ceremony

Photo taken after Belmont’s announcement that the final presidential debate would be held at Belmont University.

Belmont University is chosen by the Commission on Presidential Debates as the host of the final presidential debate in the 2020 campaign season. Pictured from Left to Right: Butch Spyridon (Nashville CVC), Belmont SGA President Meghan Hickok, U.S. Congressman Jim Cooper, U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn, Belmont President Dr. Bob Fisher, Belmont Board Chair Marty Dickens, Mayor John Cooper, TN Commissioner Mark Ezell (Tourist Development).

October 30, 2019

Bob Fisher, John Carney, and Meghan Hickok speak at a Well Core event about the plans for the upcoming debate. The event was open to students and faculty. Initial plans for guests, media, campus events, and student participation were drastically changed after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in early 2020.

Audience members watch a presentation about plans for the upcoming debate.

Students and faculty are seated in the Johnson theater to watch a presentation about plans for the upcoming debate.

January 14, 2020

Audience members watch a discussion between Wesley Clarke and Mike Huckabee facilitates by "Renew America Together"

Audience members watch a discussion between Wesley Clarke and Mike Huckabee facilitated by “Renew America Together” in the Johnson theater.

The nonprofit organization “Renew America Together” hosts a conversation between former NATO Supreme Allied Commander General Wesley Clark and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. Both have experience as presidential candidates: Clark (D) in 2004 and Huckabee (R) in 2008 and 2016. Although they maintain very different ideals and viewpoints, the dicussion was civil and both expressed a desire for more unity in politics.

August 11, 2020

Joe Biden officially chooses Kamala Harris as his vice-presidential running mate. Harris is the first Black women & South Asian person nominated for national office by a major party as well as the 4th woman in the United States to appear on a presidential ticket. A week later, on August 18th, Biden is confirmed as the presidential nominee at the Democratic National Convention. This solidifies that Trump and Biden will be the two candidates on the presidential ticket as well as the two candidates participating in the debate.

Kamala Harris standing in front of an American flag

Former Senator Kamala Harris (D) is chosen as the vice-presidential nominee. Photo and information courtesy of BBC News.

August 18, 2020

Woman stands outside facing the Bell Tower

Dressing in suffragist white, purple, and yellow, attendees stand in front of the Bell Tower as the bells rang in August 2020.

Belmont’s Ideas of America programming begins in August and includes dozens of guest speakers, panels, and other events, all held virtually due to COVID-19. The first event is a “ringing of the bells” celebration of the 100th anniversary of woman’s suffrage. Tennessee was the 36th state to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, the key state needed to reach the 3/4th state threshold required to pass a Constitutional Amendment.

September 22, 2020

Belmont University and Rock the Vote partner to host a live, virtual concert to encourage voter registration. The band Moon Taxi headlined the event. Moon Taxi’s band members first met as undergraduate students at Belmont University. In addition, students and alumni from Nashville’s colleges and universities performed.

Moon Taxi plays on the stage of Rock the Vote

Moon Taxi and other musical artists preform on a livestream for the Rock the Vote event.

September 24, 2020

The first of four events in the White House Style program is hosted. This program featured many designers, historians, and cultural critics who offered their insight on how different Presidential families have made their mark on the White House. The events were hosted by Libby Callaway and put on by O’Moore College of Architecture & Design.

September 29, 2020

The first presidential debate is held at Case Western Reserve University in the Samson Pavillon. Chris Wallace of Fox News served as the moderator. Unlike the debate held at Belmont, the debate was not well received by the public and was marked by insults and interruptions by the candidates. Many in the media referred to this debate as a “dumpster fire” and viewers were disheartened by the lack of civil discourse.

The Samson Pavillion at Case Western University

The event space from the first presidential debate. Image courtesy of Case Western University, Twitter.

October 9, 2020

PBS headline stating, "Second presidential debate is officially cancelled"

PBS News headline after the cancellation of the second presidential debate. Image courtesy of PBS News.

The second scheduled presidential debate, originally scheduled for October 15th, is officially cancelled. The CPD announced that the debate would be held virtually because Donald Trump was recovering from COVID-19, which included a five-day hospitalization. Trump opposed a virtual debate and refused to participate. His campaign claimed that he would not be contagious by October 15, but the CPD did not reverse their decision.

October 22, 2020

Belmont University hosts the final presidential debate in the Curb Event Center with Kristen Welker serving as the moderator. This debate is held less than two weeks before Election Day, although over 100 million had already voted via mail-in ballots and early voting. With a limited audience, all were required to wear a mask to prevent the spread of COVID (213,672 deaths in U.S. 10/22). This debate was different from the first more civil discussion and Kirsten Welker ably moderating the 90-minute event.

Donald Trump and Joe Biden on the debate stage

Donald Trump and Joe Biden on the debate stage in Curb Event Center at Belmont University.

November 3, 2020

CNN Politics post showing standings of Trump and Biden's electoral college votes at 12:08 am on election night

As of midnight on Election Night, Biden had 205 Electoral College votes while Trump had 132. Image courtesy of CNN Politics.

The 2020 Presidential Election Cycle was characterized by bipartisan tension and election day was no exception. A record 161 million voters in this election with many more people participated, the most ever in U.S. history. Many voted by mail or voted early because of the pandemic. People remained glued to their phones and TV screens for hours, but ultimately the night ended without a clear winner.

November 7, 2020

Several days after the election, Biden is officially declared president-elect by all the major news outlets including Associated Press, NBC, MSNBC, and Fox News. Biden supporters celebrate in the streets while Trump supporters claim that voter fraud had altered the votes in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona, and Michigan. In the weeks that followedlaw suits, vote recounts, and audits find no credible evidence of massive voter fraud. However, the election’s results would be contested again on January 6, 2021.

Kamala Harris, Joe Biden, and their spouses stand on stage holding hands

Kamala Harris, her husband Doug Emhoff, Joe Biden, and his wife Jill Biden stand on stage after Biden is declared president-elect. Image courtesy of the Associated Press.

January 6, 2021

Donald Trump stands on stage next to a sign saying "Save America March" and speaks to a large crowd

Donald Trump speaks at a rally at The Ellipse. Here he encourages his supporters to march to the Capitol. Image courtesy of The New York Times.

Congress meets to certifiy the states’ Electoral College results for Joe Biden. Still claiming election fraud, Donald Trump hold a rally with supporters at the White House and initiates a march to U.S. Capitol to encourage Vice President Mike Pence and Congress to vote against certification. The protest turned riot turned insurrection breaks through security and storms the Capitol resulting in 5 deaths, mass destruction, and evacuation of the building. Undeterred, the House of Representa-tives and Senate reconvene later that night and make Biden’s victory official.

January 20, 2021

After a long, tense, and grueling election cycle, Joe Biden is sworn in as the new President of the United States. Only a limited number of people could attend and all are required to wear masks due to the pandemic. Other events such as the parade and Inaugural Ball are also canceled. Donald Trump does not attend the inaugurationthe first president not to do so since Andrew Johnson. Notable performances include music by Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez and poetry by Amanda Gorman. President Biden pledges to unify the nation.

Joe Biden smiling in front of a podium at the US Capitol

Joe Biden smiles while delivering a speech at the Capitol. He has just been inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States. Image courtesy of NBC News.