Since catching Covid-19, President Donald Trump has thrown the Presidential debate calendar into disarray.

By Kate Carrington

The Commission on Presidential debates announced on 9 October that the second Presidential debate, set to be held in Miami on 15 October, would be cancelled after the President refused to take part in any sort of virtual or remotely held debate. The virtual plans for the debate had arisen after President Trump tested positive for COVID-19. 

This cancellation is the result of a 48hr ping-pong between the Commission and both campaigns, with President Trump and Joe Biden engaging in a war-of-words on social media and through campaign statements. This means that the final debate, set to go ahead in Nashville on 22 October, will most likely be the final meeting of the two candidates and their final opportunity to outline their policies to the American people, just twelve days before the election. 

Responding to the cancellation, the Trump campaign issued a statement claiming that by cancelling the debate the Commission was rushing to “Joe Biden’s defence” in a “sad excuse to bail out Joe Biden”. They continue by stating that there is “no medical reason” to cancel the debate as the President will be healthy and would have posted “multiple negative tests prior to the debate”. The Trump campaign has suggested “using October 22 and October 29 to hold the final two debates”, which the Biden campaign have apparently refused. In replacement of the debate the Trump campaign has stated that they will have a “rally instead” with President Trump tweeting that he will be in Sanford, Florida for a “very BIG RALLY”. 

Unlike President Trump, the Biden campaign stated that they were “prepared to accept the CPD’s proposal for a virtual Town Hall”. The Biden campaign claimed that President Trump’s refusal to accept the virtual debate was clearly due to the fact that President Trump “does not want to face questions from the voters about his failures on COVID and the economy”. A spokesman for the Biden Campaign has stated that Joe Biden will “find an appropriate place to take questions from voters directly on October 15th”.

Joe Biden is still hopeful that the CPD will move the 22 October debate so that the “President is not able to evade accountability” claiming that the “voters should have a chance to ask questions of both candidates, directly”. Biden calls upon historic precedent in his appeal of the Commission, stating that every Presidential candidate since 1992 has participated in a debate and that “it would be a shame if Donald Trump was the first to refuse”.

The Commission on Presidential Debates issued their statement on the 9 October, presenting a very different image of what happened. CPD initially stated that the 15 October debate would be “conducted virtually”. However, they go on to state that after a series of statements from both campaigns regarding “their willingness to participate in a virtual debate” both campaigns “announced alternate plans for that date” making it apparent that there will no longer be a debate on the 15th.  This statement comes the day after Trump’s campaign statement of his plans to have a rally in replacement of the debate whereas the Biden campaign announced their plans for alternatives the day after the announcement on the 10 October. 

As of yet, the debate on 22 October is set to go ahead, with the CPD announcing that this debate will be “subject to health security considerations” including testing, social distancing and masks.

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