May 15, 2024

Biden, Trump agree to election debates in June, September


Biden and Trump

Joe Biden and Donald Trump agreed Wednesday to hold presidential debates in June and September after the Democratic incumbent challenged his rival to “make my day” and the scandal-plagued Republican replied he was ready to “rumble.”

News channel CNN announced it will hold the first debate on June 27 in Atlanta, Georgia. Trump and Biden both said they had agreed on a second debate on the ABC network on September 10.

The agreement ends months of uncertainty over whether the candidates would debate at all, and sees both the Democrat and the Republican shunning the traditional commission that has run debates since 1988.

Biden, 81, set out his own terms including having no studio audience, seeking to avoid a repeat of the often chaotic debates with political showman Trump in the 2020 election.

Trump, 77, accepted the dates even as he set out a starkly different vision with a larger venue for “excitement purposes” while his campaign called for adding debates in July and August as well.

“Donald Trump lost two debates to me in 2020. Since then, he hasn’t shown up for a debate. Now he’s acting like he wants to debate me again. Well, make my day, pal,” Biden said in a video on X.

“I’ll even do it twice.”

Biden had also trolled Trump over his ongoing criminal hush money trial in New York, which features a mid-week break, adding: “I hear you’re free on Wednesdays.”

Announcing he’d accepted the ABC invitation, Biden added: “Trump says he’ll arrange his own transportation. I’ll bring my plane, too. I plan on keeping it for another four years.”

CNN confirmed there would be no audience for its debate, saying it would “ensure candidates may maximize the time allotted.”

Biden’s debate offer appeared to show him taking the calculated risk of putting Trump back into American living rooms ahead of November’s election, hoping it could reverse the Republican’s poll lead in a series of battleground states.

The Biden campaign has increasingly been trying to remind voters of what they say is the true face of the mercurial president who lost in 2020, amid what they fear is Trump “nostalgia” — even as the Republican details his stark vision for introducing unprecedented levels of presidential power in a second term and taking “retribution.”

– ‘Will you shut up?’

For his part, Trump has previously said he would debate his rival “anytime, anywhere” as he seeks to portray Biden as old and incapable of leadership.

After Biden’s challenge, Trump — who avoided any debates with his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination this year — said he was “ready to Rumble!!!” for the proposed June and September debates.

He described Biden as the “WORST debater I have ever faced” and added: “I would strongly recommend more than two debates and, for excitement purposes, a very large venue, although Biden is supposedly afraid of crowds.”

The 2020 debates between the two candidates were tension-filled affairs, with Biden snapping, “will you shut up, man?” as Trump repeatedly talked over him.

This time, the Biden campaign appeared to be leaving nothing to chance.

In a letter to the bipartisan US election debates commission obtained by AFP, campaign chief Jen O’Malley Dillon said they would not take part in its three scheduled debates in September and October, but would go through news organizations instead.

The debates should feature only the candidates and a moderator, she said, avoiding “raucous or disruptive partisans” in the audience.

Candidates’ microphones should also be kept off when it was outside their allotted time — a rule the commission was “unable or unwilling to enforce” in 2020, she said.

There was also no place for third candidates, she said, ruling out an appearance by independent challenger Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Kennedy accused Trump and Biden of “colluding to lock America into a head-to-head match-up that 70 percent say they do not want,” in a statement on X.

“They are trying to exclude me from their debate because they are afraid I would win.”

Crucially, the Biden campaign said that the later debate schedule would miss early voters, who have been crucial for Democratic hopes in recent elections.

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