Donald Trump has accepted the Republican Party’s renomination for the US presidency with a highly unconventional and, his opponents have argued, legally dubious speech from the South Lawn of the White House.

A week earlier, former vice president Joe Biden became the Democratic Party’s nominee after declaring in his acceptance speech that November’s US presidential election is a battle for the country’s soul.

Now the two parties’ national conventions are over, what is in store for both campaigns as they challenge for the White House?

– Early voting

While election day is November 3, many Americans will cast their ballots much sooner. Postal voting begins as early as September 18 in some states. The coronavirus pandemic means even a simple trip to the ballot box now contains an element of jeopardy, particularly for those at higher risk from the virus. The US has more cases of Covid-19 than any other country in the world so postal votes are expected in record numbers for this year’s election.

An unprecedented amount of postal votes are expected this year

With this in mind, the campaigns will be more concerned than ever that their likely voters cast their ballots as early as possible. The Democrats, in particular, have been focusing on voter registration drives in key battleground states and pressing home the importance of early voting. Such campaigning and awareness raising is likely to intensify over the coming weeks.

Concerns have been raised by some Democrats that changes made to the United States Postal Service, like the elimination of employee overtime and removal of mail-sorting machines from some facilities by Trump donor Louis DeJoy, who was appointed to the position of postmaster general in June, could lead to voter suppression and some ballots not being received in time.

– Presidential debates

Mr Trump and Mr Biden are scheduled to go head to head in three debates in the run-up to election day. The first will take place on September 29 in the swing state of Ohio. Florida, another hotly contested state, will host the second on October 15 before the two rivals square off for a final time a week later on October 22 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Both men have made gaffes in debates and interviews throughout their political careers and Mr Trump, in particular, has shown he is not afraid of making controversial statements during such set-pieces.

Much has been made by the Trump campaign about 77-year-old Mr Biden’s cognitive abilities and his suitability for the Oval Office. Mr Trump, who is 74, has faced similar scrutiny himself and boasted about acing a cognitive test during an interview earlier this year. Many undecided voters will be watching with interest to see how the two candidates cope with the pressure of the televised debates.

– Vice presidential debate

The nominees for vice president – incumbent Mike Pence and his Democratic challenger California Senator Kamala Harris – will also be put through their paces during a live TV debate in Salt Lake City, Utah, on October 7.

The significance of past vice presidential set-pieces has been debated, with many commentators claiming its impact is minimal. Consensus seems to be that Mr Pence’s one-on-one with Ms Harris, however, could take on greater prominence this year due to the ages of Mr Biden and Mr Trump.

Mr Biden has referred to himself as a “bridge” to future Democratic leaders and has hinted that, if he wins the presidency in November, he may only serve one term. Such speculation could place more pressure on Ms Harris to demonstrate, during the debate, her own readiness for the top job.

Ms Harris’ historic nomination as the first black and south Asian woman to run for the vice presidency is also likely to generate greater interest in the debate.

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