The Commission on Presidential Debates announced the second round of the presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden will be virtual, but Trump has refused to participate if that’s the case.
According to CNN, the commission referenced to the concern for “health and safety of all involved” as its reason to move the scheduled October 15 in-person debate in Miami to a virtual showdown that would allow both presidential candidates to bicker—I mean debate from separate locations.
The decision comes after Trump’s positive coronavirus diagnosis last week and the uncertainty on his health, but it’s Trump who’s against the plan. “I am not going to do a virtual debate,” Trump said on Fox Business. “I am not going to waste my time on a virtual debate.”
Biden’s team quickly agreed with the plan to go virtual. From a political standpoint, CNN says that Trump’s refusal could hurt his campaign, which is already trailing in every national poll and in numerous key swing states.
The commission’s head chairman Frank Fahrenkopf told CNN that each camp was informed “just before” publicly announcing its plan to change the event setup; however, it “did not consult with them” on their opinions to do so.
Trump told Fox that a virtual debate would put him “behind a computer” given the moderator, Steve Scully, the option to “cut” him “off whenever they want.”
But, this wouldn’t be the first time the two presidential candidates have debated from separate locations. The third debate between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy took place in two separate locations in 1960.
Trump’s campaign manager Bill Stepien accused the commission of “unilaterally canceling an in-person debate” that, in his opinion, was a move to help Biden. Not only will Trump not virtually show up, but he said the Celebrity-in-Chief will also hold a rally instead.
On October 15, moderator Scully and attendees will ask questions from the original Miami debate site. “The second presidential debate will take the form of a town meeting, in which the candidates would participate from separate remote locations,” the commission said.
As for Trump, he’s not legally obligated to attend the debate. According to Fahrenkopf, it’s in his legal right to decline. “There is no law requiring any presidential candidate to debate. In fact, in 1980, Jimmy Carter, president of the United States, refused to participate in the first debate, but he did participate in the second debate,” he said. “So it is up to every candidate to decide whether they want to debate or not.”
Thursday’s decision was announced by the commission hours after Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris debated in person the night before, separated by plexiglass.
But the main take away from all this surrounds one thing, Trump’s health.
“It is all going to depend on the President’s health,” a commission member said before the vice-presidential debate. “We have to plan like it is going to happen. … If he is quarantined in the White House, they have a way to bring him” live to the hall.