Several political commentators have urged former Vice President Joe Biden not to debate President Trump in the fall, arguing it is a no-win scenario against someone who won’t follow the rules, but this idea is opposite by several prominent Democratic politicians – including Biden himself.
“Whatever you do, don’t debate Trump,” wrote former Clinton White House press secretary Joe Lockhart in a editorial on CNN, which argued that it would be “a mad rush to get into the ring with someone who can’t follow the rules or the truth.”
This idea was echoed by journalist Elizabeth Drew, who called for completely suppressing presidential debates in a New York Times editorial, with Democratic strategist Zac Petkanas and anti-Trump Republican Bill Kristol also arguing against a debate between Biden and Trump.
The suggestions sparked a backlash from the right, with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) labeling Lockhart’s remarks “Basement strategy pt. 2 ”, – a reference to Biden campaigning virtually from his home during much of the pandemic – and the Trump War Room Twitter account Tweeter a New York Post editorial titled “Suddenly Democrats Want to End Presidential Debates!” Ha! “With the the Wall Street newspaper Editorial board request “Will Joe Biden dodge the debates?” “
Trump and his campaign have long suggested Biden was reluctant to debate because of his mental acuity, claims to which Biden countered in July in saying he “can’t wait to compare my cognitive abilities to those of the man I’m running against.”
Biden Rapid Response Director Andrew Bates and communications director Kate bedingfield reiterated that sentiment on Monday, Bates stating that Biden “looks forward to Donald Trump’s debate on the dates and locations chosen by the Presidential Commission on the debates,” and noting that Biden, unlike Trump, has engaged in those debates in writing.
Trump, on the other hand, affirmed in December that the Commission is “stacked with Trump Haters & Never Trumpers” and that the debates of 2016 were “biased”, with his campaign threatening non-participation in January; though campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said on Monday that Trump “was eager to debate Joe Biden.”
Donald Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr. claims in a radio interview Monday that there is “an active push for Joe Biden not to debate my father”, accusing the media of “already covering his inevitable probable withdrawal from the debate”.
The Trump campaign still has disagreements with the Commission, including the number of debates. Trump has pushed for four debates with Biden, rather than the usual three, a common tactic by underdog candidates likely aimed at capitalizing on Trump’s penchant for spectacle. Trump’s campaign manager Bill Stepien, who was promoted to the post last month, Told Fox News Monday “We want more debate. We want the debates to start earlier. The first debate is scheduled for September 29. By that time, 16 states will have already voted.
Trump’s suggestion that Biden – who has defended himself in major Democratic debates against formidable rivals – does not want or cannot debate could come back to hurt him. Typically, presidential campaigns attempt to lower expectations before a debate, but USA today reporter Joey Garrison Noted in July that “the attacks raised expectations of how Trump’s debate would perform this fall and sparked skepticism about his own fitness.”
56%. The electorate doesn’t seem to share Trump’s assessment that he has a more robust mental form than Biden. A Hill-HarrisX survey in July found that 56% of voters viewed Biden as mentally fit to lead the nation, while only 45% said the same about Trump.
What to watch out for
The first debate is scheduled for September 29 and was moved in Cleveland, Ohio, in July after the withdrawal of the University of Notre Dame. Subsequent debates are scheduled for Miami, Fla. On Oct. 15, and Nashville, Tenn., On Oct. 22 with a vice-presidential debate scheduled for Oct. 7 in Salt Lake City, Utah.