DemDaily: The Debate is On!

May 17, 2024

The campaigns of President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump this week agreed to two general election debates -- one on June 27 on CNN and a second on September 10 on ABC News.

Trump, who refused to debate any of his primary opponents, has publicly chided Biden for months, questioning the President's ability to debate him and playing on concerns about Biden’s age and mental acuity.

Biden has largely ignored Trump's taunts until Wednesday morning, when he released a clever video accepting the challenge. It ends with Biden saying, "I hear you are open on Wednesdays" -- a reference to Trump's only day off from court in his criminal hush money trail where he is facing 34 counts of falsifying business records.

The Biden campaign informed the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) -- the nonprofit established by both parties which has sponsored and produced presidential debates since 1988 -- that the President wanted to debate Trump twice and to do so earlier than the fall and outside the traditional format run by the commission.

Within hours of the video's release, Biden posted on X, "I’ve received and accepted an invitation from @CNN for a debate on June 27th. Over to you, Donald. As you said: anywhere, any time, any place."

In a flurry of real-time negotiations, both candidates agreed to participate in the two separate debates.

"President Biden made his terms clear for two one-on-one debates, and Donald Trump accepted those terms. No more games. No more chaos, no more debate about debates." - Biden Campaign Chair Jen O’Malley Dillon

The early scheduling of the June debate is unusual in that neither Biden nor Trump will have formally accepted their party’s nominations.

The GOP nominating convention is July 15-18 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and the Democratic convention is August 19-22 in Chicago, Illinois.

Both campaigns, however, wanted earlier debates that would be held before early voting begins.

The Biden campaign also demanded that hosts were not from outlets with an ideological bent toward Trump; hence the rejection of a proposed October 2 FOX News debate.

The most significant departure from the traditional format is the absence of an audience to ensure the substance and dignity of the event, minus the interference of audience reaction and shouting. While a disadvantage for Trump, who is fueled by his outspoken fans, it is an advantage to Biden, who can get distracted by the noise and comments.

In another nod to maintaining control of candidates and the room, microphones will be cut off if a candidate speaks out of turn.

Additional CNN qualifications include:
* Participants must meet the requirements outlined in Article II, Section 1 of the US Constitution to serve as president.
* Must file a formal statement of candidacy to the Federal Election Commission.
* Must appear on a sufficient number of state ballots to reach the 270 electoral vote threshold to win the presidency;
* Receive at least 15% in four separate national polls of registered or likely voters that meet CNN’s standards for reporting.

While Biden and Trump will meet all requirements, third-party candidates Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Cornel West and Jill Stein fall short. Kennedy is on the ballot in only five states and West’s campaign claims to have secured ballot access for six states.

A May 12-14 YouGov/Economist poll of registered voters showed Trump and Biden in a statistical dead heat at 41% and 42% of the vote. Kennedy followed with 9%, followed by West and Stein at 1% (MOE +/- 2.9%)

DemList will keep you informed.

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Kimberly Scott

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Sources: Politico, CNN, Washington Post, FiveThirtyEight, ABC

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