If you were looking forward to seeing U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden shout over each other like two geriatric playground bullies again next week, I have some bad news.
The Commission on Presidential Debates announced Friday that it’s cancelling the second presidential debate scheduled for Oct. 15 after Trump’s refusal to participate remotely. The debate was initially set to take place in Miami. However, the commission on Thursday said it was switching to a virtual format for health and safety reasons in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and, much more importantly, Trump’s own positive covid-19 diagnosis last week following a super spreader event at the White House that infected several White House aides and GOP politicians in attendance.
Unsurprisingly, Trump’s team quickly decried this change (without evidence, per his usual M.O.) as a threat to the integrity of all future general election debates and a ploy to give Biden the upper hand somehow. While Biden initially agreed to participate remotely, after the president ostensibly bailed out on the virtual showdown, a campaign spokesperson said Biden would, understandably, not be taking part in the town hall-style debate alone, according to Politico.
“It is now apparent there will be no debate on October 15, and the CPD will turn its attention to preparations for the final presidential debate scheduled for October 22,” the commission said in a statement Friday. That showdown’s currently set to take place in Nashville, Tennessee, and given how poorly the Trump administration responded to the idea of a virtual debate this time, I don’t suspect the commission will push for that option again.
Biden’s campaign condemned the president’s refusal as “shameful” but unsurprising in a statement Friday. In lieu of the debate, he plans to field questions from voters in a town hall hosted by ABC News next week.
“Vice President Biden looks forward to making his case to the American people about how to overcome this pandemic, restore American leadership and our alliances in the world, and bring the American people together,” Biden campaign spokesperson Andrew Bates said Friday per CNN. “It’s shameful that Donald Trump ducked the only debate in which the voters get to ask the questions — but it’s no surprise.”
Meanwhile, Trump’s team maintains that there’s “no medical reason” to continue with a virtual debate despite all evidence to the contrary. His campaign’s suggested postponing the town hall until Oct 22., the original date of the final debate, and pushing the final debate to Oct. 29, just five days before the election.
“There is no medical reason to stop the October 15 debate in Miami from proceeding as scheduled, since the President will be healthy and ready to debate,” campaign spokesperson Tim Murtaugh said in a press statement on Friday. “It’s time for the biased commission to stop protecting Biden and preventing voters from hearing from the two candidates for president.”
Having apparently not learned his lesson the first time around, Trump also reportedly plans to host another White House event this weekend and has even suggested holding campaign events in place of the Oct. 15 debate, meaning even more plague rallies could be on the horizon.