National Post (Latest Edition)

U.S. debate planners promise less chaos

- Jarrett Renshaw Alexandra Alper and

U. S. presidenti­al debate organizers vowed on Wednesday to change the rules to rein in unruly behaviour after the candidates’ tauntfille­d initial prime- time encounter.

Democratic nominee Joe Biden suggested a mute button might help and President Donald Trump complained the Commission on Presidenti­al Debates was siding with the Democrats in the aftermath of Tuesday’s debate in Cleveland, Ohio.

The 90- minute faceoff triggered widespread criticism of the debaters and the format. The Republican president repeatedly interrupte­d Biden and questioned his intelligen­ce, while the Democratic nominee called Trump a racist, a liar and the worst president ever.

The debates commission said it would adopt changes to allow for a “more orderly discussion,” with the next debate scheduled for Oct. 15 in Miami. There was immediate speculatio­n that this could include a mute button to limit interrupti­ons.

The Trump campaign accused the organizati­on of “moving the goalposts and changing the rules in the middle of the game.”

“They’re only doing this because their guy got pummeled last night. President Trump was the dominant force and now Joe Biden is trying to work the refs. They shouldn’t be moving the goal posts and changing the rules in the middle of the game,” said Trump’s communicat­ions director, Tim Murtaugh.

Trump also was critical of the debate’s moderator, Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, who spent much of the debate trying to restore order.

“Chris had a tough night,” Trump posted on Wednesday on Twitter, calling the debate a “two on one” fight.

Biden said on Wednesday he hoped organizers of future debates would be able to turn off the microphone of the candidate who is not speaking.

“It was a national embarrassm­ent,” Biden said of the debate and Trump’s performanc­e. “I am not going to speculate what happens at the second or third debate.”

The debate commission defended Wallace, thanking him “for the profession­alism and skill he brought to last night’s debate” and promising “additional tools to maintain order.”

Biden’s campaign raised nearly US$ 10 million during the debate, a campaign aide said, adding to the Democrat’s financial advantage with five weeks to go until the Nov. 3 election.

The former vice-president has held a modest but steady lead in national voter surveys for months, although opinion polls in the battlegrou­nd states that traditiona­lly decide elections show a closer contest.

Trump did not commit at the debate to accepting the result, reassertin­g that an increase in mail- in ballots because of the pandemic would lead to widespread voting fraud. “This is going to be a fraud like you’ve never seen,” the president said.

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