In a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates, Biden’s campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon wrote, “Our position is straightforward and clear: Joe Biden will accept the Commission’s debates, on the Commission’s dates, under the Commission’s established format and the Commission’s independent choice of moderators. Donald Trump and Mike Pence should do the same.”
As they have in previous cycles, the Commission on Presidential Debates scheduled dates for three presidential debates even before the nomination process started. In October, they announced that debates would be held on Sept. 29, Oct. 15 and Oct. 22, with a vice presidential debate scheduled for Oct. 7. The candidates are not required to participate, but the approach has formalized a process that used to leave a lot of doubt over the scope of each cycle’s debates.
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In the letter to the commission, O’Malley Dillon wrote, “Any ‘debate proposals’ in lieu of that are just an effort to change the subject, avoid debates, or create a distracting ‘debate about debates.'”
The Trump campaign has been lobbying for a fourth debate, and for the events to be held earlier, according to The Washington Post, with the argument that more Americans are voting early.
“We want fair debates,” Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said, according to the Post. “We want them sooner, and we want a bigger schedule.”
The push for an additional debate was a reversal of complaints about the process earlier this year, leading to speculation that Trump would skip them.
The Biden campaign also pushed for the second debate to be in a town hall format. At least one of the debates in recent cycles has included live-audience questions.
“Joe Biden looks forward to facing Donald Trump in a multi-debate series that the American people have come to expect from their leaders; we hope that President Trump would not break that tradition or make excuses for a refusal to participate,” O’Malley Dillon wrote.
Biden advisers said that the Trump campaign was taking a new position on debates that was contradictory. Trump has said that mail-in voting would lead to electoral fraud, but the reason to have earlier debates would be because so many people would be sending in absentee ballots.
O’Malley Dillon also called the Trump campaign’s “new position” a “debate distraction.”
“The Trump position seems to be saying that he will debate if he can pick the moderators: clearly the President, who largely conducts interviews only with favorable news outlets, is afraid of facing questions from a neutral moderator,” she wrote.
Tim Murtaugh, spokesman for the Trump campaign, said in a statement, “It’s pretty obvious that Joe Biden’s handlers are afraid to send their candidate out without a script and teleprompter handy. An earlier and longer debate schedule is necessary so Americans can see the clear difference between President Trump’s vibrant leadership and Biden’s confused meandering.”
He added, “Based on his performance in a Philadelphia speech last week, it’s not a question of trusting Biden to answer the phone at 3:00 AM in an emergency, it’s a question of whether he can answer it at 3:00 in the afternoon. It’s been 81 days since Biden held a press conference and his handlers continue to encourage him to stay hidden. Americans deserve better.”
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