Biden and Trump tentatively set two debate dates, including one in June


President Biden is willing to debate former President Donald J. Trump at least twice before the election, and as early as June — but his campaign is rejecting the nonpartisan organization that has managed presidential debates since 1988, according to a letter obtained by The New York Times.

The letter by the Biden campaign lays out for the first time the president’s terms for giving Mr. Trump what he has openly clamored for: a televised confrontation with a successor Mr. Trump has portrayed, and hopes to reveal, as too feeble to hold the job. In a Truth Social post on Wednesday morning, Mr. Trump quickly agreed to the two dates proposed by the Biden campaign, although it was unclear whether he would agree to Mr. Biden’s other terms.

Mr. Biden and his top aides want the debates to start much sooner than the dates proposed by the Commission on Presidential Debates, so voters can see the two candidates side by side well before early voting begins in September. They want the debate to occur inside a TV studio, with microphones that automatically cut off when a speaker’s time limit elapses. And they want it to be just the two candidates and the moderator — without the raucous in-person audiences that Mr. Trump feeds on and without the participation of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. or other independent or third-party candidates.

The proposal suggests that Mr. Biden is willing to take some calculated risks to reverse his fortunes in a race in which most battleground-state polls show the president trailing Mr. Trump and struggling to persuade voters that he’s an effective leader and steward of the economy.

It is the first formal offer by the Biden campaign for debates with Mr. Trump, who has declared repeatedly that he will debate his successor “anytime and anywhere,” and has demanded as many debates as possible. Mr. Biden recently indicated he would debate Mr. Trump, but had until now declined to give any firm commitment or specific details.

The letter, signed by Mr. Biden’s campaign chair, Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, and addressed to the Commission on Presidential Debates, notifies the group that Mr. Biden will not be participating in the three general-election debates sponsored by the commission, which are scheduled for Sept. 16, Oct. 1 and Oct. 9.

It is a striking decision for Mr. Biden, an institutionalist who has tried to preserve the traditions of Washington.

Instead, Ms. O’Malley Dillon writes in the letter that Mr. Biden will participate in debates hosted by news organizations. Mr. Biden has also recorded a video to reaffirm his intent to debate Mr. Trump. The move opens the doors for the Biden team and potentially the Trump team to negotiate directly with networks — and with one another — for possible debates.

Mr. Trump, in a response filled with insults, said he would like to see more than two debates and for “excitement purposes, a very large venue.” He accused Mr. Biden of being “afraid of crowds.”

Ms. O’Malley Dillon suggested that the first debate be held in late June, by which time Mr. Trump’s New York criminal trial should be completed and after Mr. Biden returns from the Group of 7 summit meetings with other heads of state.

A second presidential debate should be held “in early September at the start of the fall campaign season, early enough to influence early voting, but not so late as to require the candidates to leave the campaign trail in the critical late September and October period,” she writes.

The Biden campaign also proposes that one vice-presidential debate be held in late July after Mr. Trump and his running mate are formally nominated at the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee.

Leave a Reply


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *