Candidates prepare for 2nd and final debate

Trump and Biden will face off in a final presidential debate this evening.

With 12 days to go until Election Day, and President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden racing toward Nov. 3, voters have turned out in record numbers to cast their ballots early as the candidates head to Nashville for a final showdown.

More than 45 million Americans have already voted in the 2020 election, reflecting an extraordinary level of participation and interest despite unprecedented barriers brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

The candidates face off in the final presidential debate of the 2020 election cycle from Belmont University in Nashville Thursday evening -- their last chance to pitch themselves to tens of millions of voters in primetime before Nov. 3.

In the final weeks of campaigning, the president has remained on defense as polls show him trailing nationally and in several battleground states key to his reelection hopes.

Biden, maintaining a lead in national polls -- his largest of the election, according to FiveThirtyEight's average -- stayed off the trail ahead of the debate, a pattern for the former vice president. The debate offers Biden a platform to solidify his lead so long as he avoids any major mistakes in the homestretch.

Polls indicate a huge pre-Election-Day edge for Biden and a sizable Trump advantage among those who plan to vote on Nov. 3 itself. Trump has sowed doubt in the mail-in ballot process -- and imminent election results -- for months.

All 50 states plus Washington, D.C., have some form of early voting underway. Check out FiveThirtyEight’s guide to voting during the COVID-19 pandemic here.

Follow live debate updates

President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee, are set to go toe-to-toe in the final presidential debate of the 2020 election cycle from Belmont University in Nashville on Thursday night, marking the candidates’ last chance to pitch themselves to tens of millions of voters in primetime before Nov. 3.

The debate begins at 9 p.m. and ABC News' political team will provide context and analysis on both platforms following the debate.

Click here for live updates.

Record 23,000 volunteer lawyers now helping nation's largest voter protection effort

Officials with the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law said at least 23,000 lawyers are now volunteering to assist with its Election Protection Hotline, a massive increase from prior cycles and the most on record.

It's a 400% increase from prior cycles when roughly 5,000 volunteers were on-call, according to the committee. The hotline is the nation's largest and longest-running independent voter help hotline.

The increase comes amid growing public demand for voter support along with reports of voter suppression, Kristen Clarke, the committee's president and executive director,  said in a statement Thursday.

“We have activated a growing network of over 23,000 legal volunteers to help confront the threats that voters and to empower voters with the information they need to ensure that their voices are heard," Clarke said. "By empowering voters, intervening where threats emerge and mounting litigation to address the unlawful barriers that voters have faced during the pandemic, we are fighting to create a level playing field where every voice is heard.”

-ABC News' Devin Dwyer

Biden debate guests to include Black small business owners 

Former Vice President Joe Biden said he invited Zweli and Leonardo Williams, a pair of Black entrepreneurs from North Carolina, to the debate Thursday night to bring attention to small businesses.

The duo are the owners of Zweli’s Kitchen, which is self-described as the “only known Full-Service Authentic Zimbabwean Restaurant in the United States” in Durham.

The campaign was asked about the guests during a Tuesday call with reporters and said they were invited because they represent the struggles of American business owners across the nation.

Trump offers contradictory responses on status of long-promised health care plan

President Donald Trump offered contradictory explanations about the status of his long-promised health care plan in an interview with “60 Minutes” reporter Lesley Stahl, saying initially that it is "fully developed” and will be announced "very soon" only to later say “we will come up with a plan” if the Affordable Care Act is invalidated by the Supreme Court.

Over his nearly four years in office, Trump has repeatedly promised to present a comprehensive health care plan of his own in his quest to do away with his predecessor's landmark "Affordable Care Act."  He has yet to do so.

"It is developed. It is fully developed," Trump told Stahl when asked where his health care plan is and promised: “It's going to be announced very soon."

The president later contradicted his earlier statement, saying “we will come up with a plan" if the Supreme Court rules to nullify the law.

“Will,” Stahl interjected, calling the president on his use of the future tense after he previously said he already had a plan developed.

“We have large sections of it already done,” Trump then said.

The Trump administration currently has a case before the Supreme Court that could effectively strike down the ACA. President Trump told Stahl it is his “hope” that the case will do away with the law.

The president's expression of the law's total nullification contradicted the careful message that Senate Republicans have been delivering in trying to downplay the case's threat to the ACA, as Democrats have put the issue center stage in the Amy Coney Barrett confirmation.

Just prior to the president's tweet releasing a White House recording of his interview with “60 Minutes” prior to the interview's broadcast on CBS, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas stressed that "the issue before the Supreme Court is really one of severability. Just very technical doctrine. It doesn't have anything to do with the merits of the Affordable Care Act. It has to do whether you can sever the unconstitutional portion from the rest of the law and that it will survive."

The president, by contrast, told Stahl "it’ll be so good if they end it.”

The president also claimed his plan would be cheaper than Obamacare and cover people with preexisting conditions. But when Stahl tried to nail the president down on “how” he will cover people with preexisting conditions, the president did not offer any specifics and instead only insisted that people with preexisting conditions will be “totally protected.”

-ABC News' Jordyn Phelps