Daily Camera (Boulder)

Next Trump-bi­den de­bates un­cer­tain

Oct. 22 is likely

- By Zeke Miller and Will Weissert US Elections · U.S. News · US Politics · Politics · Elections · Presidential Debates · Donald Trump · Washington · Democratic Party (United States) · Joe Biden · Miami · Arizona · Nashville · Tennessee · White House · Republican Party (United States) · Kamala Harris · Iowa · Walter Reed · U.S. Centers for Disease Control · Maria Bartiromo

WASHINGTON — The fate of fi­nal de­bates be­tween Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and Demo­crat Joe Bi­den was thrown into un­cer­tainty Thurs­day as the cam­paigns of­fered du­el­ing pro­pos­als for the re­main­ing face­offs that have been up­ended by the pres­i­dent’s coro­n­avirus in­fec­tion.

The chair of the non­par­ti­san Com­mis­sion on Pres­i­den­tial De­bates said on CNN that the fi­nal de­bate, sched­uled for Oct. 22, is still slated to go on in per­son as planned — but that Trump’s cam­paign hadn’t yet said whether he’d par­tic­i­pate. Bi­den said he would at­tend the event re­gard­less of Trump’s plans.

But next Thurs­day’s de­bate seemed to be gone.

The whip­saw day be­gan with an an­nounce­ment from the com­mis­sion that the town hall-style af­fair set for Oct. 15 in Mi­ami, would be held vir­tu­ally. The com­mis­sion cited health con­cerns fol­low­ing Trump’s in­fec­tion as the rea­son for the change.

Trump, who is ea­ger to re­turn to the cam­paign trail de­spite un­cer­tainty about his health, said he wouldn’t par­tic­i­pate if the de­bate wasn’t in per­son. Bi­den’s cam­paign then sug­gested the event be de­layed a week un­til Oct. 22, which is when the third and fi­nal de­bate was al­ready sched­uled.

Next, Trump coun­tered again, agree­ing to a de­bate on Oct. 22 — but only if face to face — and ask­ing that a third con­test be added on Oct. 29, just be­fore the election. But Bi­den’s ad­vis­ers re­jected squar­ing off that late in the cam­paign.

The de­bate com­mis­sion, which has the unenviable task of find­ing com­mon ground be­tween the com­pet­ing cam­paigns, has come un­der scru­tiny al­ready af­ter the first de­bate be­tween Trump and Bi­den de­te­ri­o­rated, with the pres­i­dent fre­quently in­ter­rupt­ing his op­po­nent and the mod­er­a­tor un­able to take con­trol.

Bi­den moved quickly to make sure he would still ap­pear in front of a tele­vi­sion au­di­ence next week. In­stead of de­bat­ing Trump on Thurs­day, he will take part in a town hall spon­sored by ABC News. As he cam­paigned in Ari­zona, Bi­den said he would in­deed at­tend the Oct. 22 de­bate, sched­uled for Nashville, Ten­nessee.

“We agreed to three de­bates back in the sum­mer,” Bi­den said. “I’m show­ing up. I’ll be there. And if, in fact, he shows up, fine. If he doesn’t, fine.”

For Trump, who is re­cov­er­ing from COVID-19 at the White House af­ter spend­ing three days in the hospi­tal, the health-in­duced changes are an un­wel­come dis­rup­tion to his ef­fort to shift fo­cus away from a virus that has killed more than 210,000 Amer­i­cans this year.

In an in­ter­view with Fox Busi­ness an­chor Maria Bar­tiromo shortly af­ter the com­mis­sion’s an­nounce­ment, Trump in­sisted he was in “great shape” and called the idea of a vir­tual de­bate a “joke.”

“I’m not go­ing to do a vir­tual de­bate,” he de­clared.

The pres­i­dent’s cam­paign man­ager, Bill Stepien, said Trump would stage a rally rather than de­bate next Thurs­day, though it’s not yet clear if he will be well enough to do that.

With less than four weeks un­til Election Day and with mil­lions of vot­ers cast­ing early bal­lots, pres­sure is build­ing on Trump to turn around a cam­paign that is trail­ing Bi­den na­tion­ally and in most bat­tle­grounds, where the mar­gin is nar­rower. A de­bate be­fore an au­di­ence of tens of mil­lions of tele­vi­sion view­ers could pro­vide that re­set.

But an­other de­bate could also ex­pose Trump to po­lit­i­cal risks. GOP strate­gists say the party’s sup­port be­gan erod­ing af­ter his seething per­for­mance against Bi­den last week when he didn’t clearly de­nounce a white su­prem­a­cist group.

Trump’s ap­par­ent un­will­ing­ness to change his style to win back vot­ers he needs — par­tic­u­larly women — was on dis­play again Thurs­day dur­ing his Fox Busi­ness in­ter­view when he re­ferred to Demo­cratic vice pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Ka­mala Har­ris as a “mon­ster.”

Cam­paign­ing with Har­ris in Ari­zona, Bi­den called Trump’s char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of the first Black woman on a ma­jor party’s pres­i­den­tial ticket “de­spi­ca­ble” and added that it was “so be­neath the of­fice of the pres­i­dency.”

This would not be the first time Trump has skipped a de­bate. Dur­ing the 2016 Repub­li­can pri­mary, he boy­cotted the last de­bate be­fore Iowa’s first-in-the na­tion’s cau­cuses, hold­ing a fundraiser for vet­er­ans in­stead — a move he later spec­u­lated may have con­trib­uted to his loss in the state.

Trump fell ill with the virus on Oct. 1, just 48 hours af­ter shar­ing a stage with Bi­den in per­son dur­ing the first pres­i­den­tial de­bate in Cleve­land. While the two can­di­dates re­mained a dozen feet apart, Trump’s in­fec­tion sparked health con­cerns for Bi­den and sent him to un­dergo mul­ti­ple COVID-19 tests be­fore re­turn­ing to the cam­paign trail. His cam­paign an­nounced Thurs­day that Bi­den had un­der­gone his fifth such test and was found to be neg­a­tive.

Trump was still con­ta­gious with the virus when he was dis­charged from Wal­ter Reed Na­tional Mil­i­tary Med­i­cal Cen­ter on Mon­day, but his doc­tor said Thurs­day he had “com­pleted his course of ther­apy” and could re­sume cam­paign­ing this week­end. Ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion, those with mild to mod­er­ate symp­toms of COVID19 can be con­ta­gious for as many as — and should iso­late for at least — 10 days.

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 ?? Jim Wat­son/ AFP ?? This com­bi­na­tion of pic­tures cre­ated shows Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, left, and Demo­cratic Pres­i­den­tial can­di­date for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den squar­ing off Sept. 29 dur­ing the first pres­i­den­tial de­bate at the Case Western Re­serve Univer­sity and Cleve­land Clinic in Cleve­land, Ohio.
Jim Wat­son/ AFP This com­bi­na­tion of pic­tures cre­ated shows Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, left, and Demo­cratic Pres­i­den­tial can­di­date for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den squar­ing off Sept. 29 dur­ing the first pres­i­den­tial de­bate at the Case Western Re­serve Univer­sity and Cleve­land Clinic in Cleve­land, Ohio.

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