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Biden and Trump Agree to Debates in June, September

Published: May 18, 2024
(Image: Combination picture showing former U.S. President Donald Trump attending the Trump Organization civil fraud trial, in New York State Supreme Court in the Manhattan borough of New York City, U.S., November 6, 2023 and U.S. President Joe Biden participating in a meeting with Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 1, 2024. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid and Elizabeth Frantz/File Photo)

U.S. President Joe Biden and his Republican opponent Donald Trump have agreed to face off in two separate debates on June 27 and Sept. 10. The coming months will be the most important period of the campaign for the White House. 

“As you said: anywhere, any time, any place,” Biden said on social media on Wednesday, May 15.

“I am Ready and Willing to Debate Crooked Joe at the two proposed times in June and September,” Trump said on social media after calling Biden “the worst debater” he has ever faced. 

CNN said the first debate would be held in their Atlanta studio with no audience, and would be moderated by anchors Jake Tapper and Dana Bash. The State of Georgia, where the city of Atlanta is located, is one of November’s most closely contested states.

ABC network will host the two candidates for a second debate on Sept. 10, and a separate vice presidential debate has been proposed for July, after the Republican National Convention will take place.

The two sides had different requests on the terms of engagement. Biden said he would participate in those two debates under strict rules to reduce interruptions, while Trump called for more than that — including a very large venue “for excitement purposes.”

Independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr claimed in a new post on X that he will meet the criteria to participate in the CNN debate before the June 20 deadline. 

Robert F. Kennedy Jr is the son of U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy, and nephew of U.S. president John F. Kennedy and senator Ted Kennedy. 

CNN requires its debate candidates to appear on a sufficient number of state ballots to reach the 270 electoral vote threshold, and receive at least 15 percent in four separate national polls of registered or likely voters.

Earlier in the day Kennedy said Biden and Trump ” are trying to exclude me from their debate because they are afraid I would win.” A new poll showed only 13 percent of Americans would vote for Kennedy. 

Debates will draw a massive U.S. live television audience in the tens of millions, however are fraught with risks for both candidates, who face a tight race and low enthusiasm from voters.

Biden aides think debates could expose and damageTrump on different issues, including abortion, that they regard as political vulnerabilities.

Instead Trump’s campaign sees Biden as prone to mistakes that could amplify voter concerns about the president’s age and stamina. 

Alan Schroeder is a professor emeritus at Northeastern University who wrote the book “Presidential Debates: Risky Business on the Campaign Trial.” He called the debate: “One of the only moments in which the candidates don’t have complete control.” 

“Both candidates will be under greater scrutiny than they have ever been due to their age,” he added. 

The first debate would take place after the conclusion of the G7 summit in Italy and Trump’s criminal trial in New York.

Details to be decided

The decades-old tradition of the U.S. presidential run would demand three debates to be held in fall. Biden’s debate proposal instead called for direct negotiations between the two teams over the rules, ditching previous practices. 

In addition to his age, voters remain concerned about Biden’s handling of the economy.

The move shows Biden is willing to take a calculated risk to boost his opinion poll numbers, especially in the swing states. 

Trump has in recent weeks been challenging Biden to a one-on-one matchup with him, arguing that debates should be held before early voting begins in some states. He told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt the debate should last two hours, and that both men should be required to stand.

Biden’s team earlier requested that only broadcast networks that hosted Republican primary debates in 2016 and Democratic primary debates in 2020 be eligible to host this year. 

Only four networks hosted debates for both parties during those election cycles: CNN, Telemundo, CBS News and ABC News.

Biden said he would not take part in the traditional televised showdowns organized by the Commission on Presidential Debates, rejecting the nonpartisan organization that has managed them since 1988.

Trump had also expressed interest in bypassing the commission, and the Republican National Committee announced in 2022 that the party would leave the commission’s debate system.

Reuters contributed to the report.