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

  • By Anthony Zurcher
  • North America Correspondent

Image source, Getty Images

Joe Biden and Donald Trump have agreed to hold two televised presidential debates in June and September, setting the stage for prime-time political duels that could shake up the race for the White House.

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

ABC will host the second on September 10.

The announcement came after President Biden, a Democrat, laid out his conditions for debating his Republican predecessor ahead of the November election.

CNN said there would be no audience 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 anchors, David Muir and Linsey Davis, would moderate the second debate, but the network did not specify a location.

Robert F Kennedy Jr, who is running as an independent, has accused the two main candidates of collusion to exclude him.

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

Mr Trump said on his social media platform Truth Social that he had also accepted an invitation from Fox News for a third fight on October 2. However, Mr. Biden’s campaign chair, Jen O’Malley Dillon, said the president had “clarified his terms for two one-on-one debates, and Donald Trump agreed to those terms.”

Video caption, Trump-Biden debate ‘shocking,’ debate chair says

Mr. Biden has proposed two televised debates in June and September. His rival quickly accepted, before proposing to debate it every month.

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

The two candidates traded barbs 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 rival was the “worst debater” who “can’t put two sentences together “.

How these debates break with tradition

Mr. Biden’s two-debate proposal breaks several established traditions.

It bypasses the Commission on Presidential Debates, which since 1988 has set times and established dates and locations for fall debates. There are usually three such televised clashes.

Mr Biden’s team wants both debates to take place without an audience – another break with tradition.

Candidates would take turns answering questions from an agreed upon moderator from a major news network, and the microphone of the candidate who was not speaking would be muted.

Ms Dillon said noisy partisan crowds were not “conducive to good debate”.

But Mr. Trump called for a large audience, saying “it’s just more exciting” with a crowd.

Speaking to conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, he also said the debates should last two hours and both rivals should be required to stand for the entire duration.

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

Video caption, September 2020: Trump and Biden clash over the future of health care

Can RFK qualify?

CNN’s rules state that participants must appear on enough ballots to obtain the minimum 270 electoral votes required to win a US presidential election, and that they must receive at least 15% support in four separate recognized polls – a high bar for a third-party prospect. as Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

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

His latest polls also appear slightly below CNN’s guidelines, although he is performing better than any third-party candidate since Ross Perot in 1996.

CNN has not yet commented on his qualifying claims.

Earlier Wednesday, Mr. Kennedy accused his opponents to try to freeze him “because they are afraid that I will win”. He has previously argued that the White House elections were rigged in favor of the two major parties.

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

Why is the first debate so early?

By moving the debates earlier in the presidential campaign calendar, Mr. Biden’s proposal could reduce the impact of televised clashes on the outcome of the November presidential election, giving both candidates more time to recover. of any poor performance.

Some former incumbent presidents – including Mr Trump, Barack Obama, George HW Bush and Ronald Reagan – had shaky results in their first general election debate before regaining their footing in subsequent meetings.

A June debate would take place before the Republican and Democratic national conventions, while the September one would take place at least a month before Election Day. Surveys indicate that many Americans don’t start paying attention to U.S. presidential campaign news until the fall.

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

Presidential debates in election years are typically broadcast on several U.S. networks. At least 73 million Americans watched the first debate of 2020 between Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden.

Mr. Trump refused to participate in Republican primary debates during that campaign, a point Mr. Biden emphasized in the video his campaign released announcing the debate proposal.

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

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