This combination of images, taken on September 29, 2020, shows U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and Democratic presidential candidate and former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden during the first presidential debate at Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland , Ohio, on September 29, 2020.
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The group that sponsors the presidential debates said Wednesday that they will be making format changes to the next two showdowns between President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden to "keep order" in the face of their fragile first showdown.
A source close to the Presidential Debate Commission told NBC News that no final decisions have been made on the changes. But the source also said the group is considering turning off a candidate's microphone if they break the rules.
The initial Trump-Biden debate in Cleveland on Tuesday night quickly became a mess, with frequent name calls and interruptions.
Trump repeatedly defied moderator Chris Wallace's admonitions to abide by the rules and allow former Vice President Biden to speak non-stop.
In an interview with the New York Times on Wednesday, Fox News journalist Wallace said, "I never thought it would go off the rails the way it was," he said.
"Last night's debate made it clear that the format of the remaining debates should be expanded to include an additional structure to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues," the Presidential Debate Commission said in a statement.
The Commission added that it "will carefully examine the changes it will adopt and will announce these measures shortly".
The commission said it was "grateful to" Wallace "for the professionalism and skill he brought to last night's debate and intends to ensure that additional tools are in place to maintain order for the remaining debates."
Trump campaign spokesperson Tim Murtaugh said of the commission, "You're only doing this because your guy was beaten up last night."
"President Trump was the dominant force, and now Joe Biden is trying to keep the referees busy. They shouldn't move the goal posts and change the rules in the middle of the game," Murtaugh said.
Trump said in a tweet about the planned changes: "Try to get a new anchor and a smarter Democratic candidate!"
Biden told reporters at a campaign rally in Ohio that he supported the idea of making changes to the format of the debate.
"I just hope that there is some way the Debate Commission can control our ability to answer the question without a break," said Biden. "I'm not going to speculate on what will happen in the second or third debate."
Referring to Trump's behavior on Tuesday night, Biden said, "He's not only attacked me and my family all the time, but the host too."
Wallace told The Times, "Even if the President's microphone had been closed (on Tuesday), he could have practically continued to interrupt and it might have been recorded on Biden's microphone and it would still have been interfered with." the procedure in the hall, "he said.
The next debate between Republican incumbent Trump and Biden is scheduled for October 15 in Miami. Steve Scully, the political editor at C-SPAN, is moderating the second debate. It will be in a town hall format.
A third presidential debate is planned for October 22nd at Belmont University in Nashville. NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker will moderate this debate.
The first and only Vice Presidential Debate between Acting Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Is scheduled for October 7th at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. USA The current head of the Washington office, Susan Page, is the moderator for this event.
Aaron Kall, director of the University of Michigan Debate Program and author of Debating the Donald, told CNBC: "Given the public outrage over last night's debate, it is not surprising that the Presidential Debate Commission would try to do something to suppress the disappointment expressed by so many. "
But Kall added, "I think changing the previously agreed rules of debate in the middle of this debate cycle increases the likelihood that future debates between President Trump and Biden will not take place."
"In addition to being dissatisfied with moderator Chris Wallace's performance last night, it's easy to imagine the Trump campaign arguing that the rules of debates will be changed during the course to protect and benefit Biden," he said.
Kall noted that Trump skipped the main Iowa Republican debate in 2016.
"Since there are only a few weeks until the next planned presidential debate, both sides do not have much time to reach agreement on the new rules, which would undoubtedly be open to multiple interpretations and exceptions," said Kall.