Biden and Trump agree to June and September debates as RFK competes to qualify

  • by Anthony Zurcher
  • North America correspondent

image Source, getty images

Joe Biden and Donald Trump have agreed to hold two presidential TV debates in June and September, setting the stage for a primetime political duel that could shake up the White House race.

CNN will host the first forum in the key swing state of Georgia on June 27.

ABC will host the second on September 10.

The announcement came after President Biden, a Democrat, set out his terms for the debate with his Republican predecessor ahead of the November election.

CNN said there will be no spectators at the June debate in Atlanta, which will be moderated by hosts Jake Tapper and Dana Bash. It is scheduled unusually early for an election year.

ABC said its presenters, David Muir and Lynsey Davis, would moderate the second debate, but the network did not specify a location.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., running as an independent, accused the two leading candidates of colluding to oust him.

But later Wednesday he said on X, formerly Twitter, that he would meet the requirements to qualify for the CNN debate.

Mr Trump said on his social media platforms true social That he has also accepted Fox News’ invitation for the third match on October 2. However, Mr Biden’s campaign chair Jen O’Malley Dillon said the president had “made clear his terms for two head-to-head debates, and Donald Trump accepted those terms”.

video caption, Debate chairman says Trump-Biden debate ‘shocking’

Mr Biden proposed two televised debates in June and September. His opponent immediately accepted this before suggesting a debate every month.

The Trump campaign said, “We believe there should be more than just two opportunities for the American people to hear more from the candidates.”

The two candidates have taken digs at each other on social media, with Mr Trump saying: “Just tell me when. Let’s get ready to rumble!!!”

Mr Biden said Mr Trump was “free on Wednesday” – a reference to his criminal trial in New York, while Mr Trump claimed his opponent was “the worst debater” who “can’t put two sentences together “.

How do these debates break with tradition

Mr. Biden’s proposal for two debates breaks many established conventions.

It bypasses the Presidential Debates Commission, which has set the schedule since 1988 and has already set dates and locations for the debates in the fall. There are usually three such TV clashes.

Mr Biden’s team wants both debates to be held without a live audience – another break with tradition.

Candidates must take turns answering questions from an agreed-upon moderator from a major news network, and the non-speaking candidate’s microphone will be disabled.

Ms Dillon said fiercely partisan crowds are not “conducive to good debate”.

But Mr Trump called for a larger audience, saying “it’s even more exciting” with crowds.

Speaking to conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, he also said that the debate should last two hours, and that both rivals should remain standing for the duration.

The first forum of 2020 between the two candidates was marred by repeated interruptions and cross-talk. The second was canceled when Mr Trump contracted Covid and declined to participate by video link.

video caption, September 2020: Trump and Biden clash over future of healthcare

Can RFK qualify?

CNN’s rules state that participants must appear on enough state ballots to garner the minimum 270 electoral votes needed to win a U.S. presidential election, and they must receive at least 15% support in four separate recognized polls. Would have to – a high bar for a third-party candidate like Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Mr. Kennedy’s campaign says he is now officially on the ballot in six states and has collected enough signatures to qualify for the ballot in eight more. All these states together bring him closer to the electoral threshold, but only by 185.

His latest polling figures also appear to be slightly below CNN guidelines, even though he is polling better than any third-party candidate since Ross Perot in 1996.

CNN has not yet commented on his qualifying claims.

Earlier on Wednesday Mr Kennedy accused His opponents are trying to oust him “because they are afraid I will win”. He has previously argued that the White House elections were rigged in favor of the two main parties.

Mr Biden laughed when a reporter asked him on Wednesday if he wanted to debate an independent candidate.

Why is the first debate so early?

By moving the debate earlier in the presidential campaign calendar, Mr. Biden’s proposal could minimize any impact of TV clashes on the outcome of the November presidential election, giving both candidates more time to recover from any poor showings.

Some past presidents – including Mr Trump, Barack Obama, George HW Bush and Ronald Reagan – have had shaky performances in their first general election debates before regaining their footing in subsequent meetings.

The June debate will take place before both the Republican and Democratic national conventions, while the September debate will take place at least a month before Election Day. Surveys indicate that many Americans do not begin paying attention to US presidential campaign news until the autumn.

Mr Biden also proposed a vice presidential debate in July that would take place after Mr Trump nominates his running mate at the Republican convention in the summer.

Presidential debates are typically broadcast on multiple American networks in an election year. The first debate of 2020 between Mr Trump and Mr Biden was watched by at least 73 million Americans.

Mr Trump declined to participate in any Republican primary debates during this campaign, a point Mr Biden made in a video released by his campaign announcing the debate proposal.

Mr Biden faced minimal opposition for the nomination this year and the Democratic Party held no primary debates.


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