Following President Donald Trump's recent Covid-19 diagnosis, the next debate has been canceled by the Presidential Debate Commission, according to the Wall Street Journal and CNN.
On Thursday, Trump turned recently tabled plans for a remote debate on its head and told Fox Business, "I won't waste my time on a virtual debate."
There was a back-and-forth on Thursday and Friday as potential alternative arrangements were made in the campaigns. Both campaigns plan to hold separate events instead of the debate.
The second presidential debate, originally scheduled for October 15, was to be moderated by Steve Scully, C-SPAN editor. A lot has changed since it was arranged – and since Trump and Biden first met on stage on September 29. Most importantly, Trump is partially isolated in the White House after testing positive for Covid-19 on October 2. The president has been treated with a number of innovative therapies for the airborne coronavirus, but Biden said he was reluctant to appear on stage with Trump because he could still be contagious on the day of the debate.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people with Covid-19 to stay away from others for at least 10 days after they have symptoms, and advise that patients – like Trump – who have been hospitalized and need oxygen, should possibly self-isolate for at least 20 days. The date of the debate appears to be after the 10-day window but before the 20-day mark based on what is publicly known about the appearance of the president's symptoms.
On Tuesday, before the debate was made virtual, Biden told reporters he wasn't sure it made sense to attend as planned.
"I think if he still has Covid we shouldn't have a debate," he said after speaking in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, adding, "Too many people have been infected. It's a very serious problem so I'm going to address myself follow the guidelines of the Cleveland Clinic and what doctors say is right. "
Until recently, Trump seemed ready to debate, despite still being treated for Covid-19, and tweeted, “I'm looking forward to the debate on Thursday evening October 15 in Miami. It will be great!"
After the Presidential Debate Commission announced that the second debate would be virtual, Trump said he no longer wanted to participate, arguing, "That is not what the debate is about. If you sit behind a computer and have a debate, it's ridiculous . And then they cut you off whenever they want. "
"I will not waste my time with a virtual debate" – Trump begins his first interview with Maria Bartiromo after the coronavirus by withdrawing from the second debate. (It sounds a little hoarse.) Pic.twitter.com/R43JSszfll
– Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 8, 2020
In a statement released Thursday morning, Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien reiterated Trump's comments, saying that "President Trump will have released several negative tests prior to the debate, so this unilateral statement is not required." However, the White House has still not said when Trump's last negative Covid-19 test was.
Stepien vowed to bring his candidate back on the campaign in a short time. That promise could be difficult to deliver as Trump is still actively being treated for Covid-19.
"We're going to pass this sad excuse to save Joe Biden and hold a rally instead," said Stepien.
And given Trump's rejection, Democratic candidate Joe Biden will also be planning a one-off event, his campaign said on Thursday lunchtime.
"Joe Biden will find a convenient place on October 15 to answer voter questions directly, as he has done several times over the past few weeks," said Kate Bedingfield, Biden's assistant campaign manager, in a statement. "Given the president's refusal to attend on October 15th, we hope the Debate Commission will move Biden-Trump Town Hall to October 22nd so the president cannot evade accountability."
The ability of the Presidential Debate Commission and the advisory Cleveland Clinic to conduct debates safely was challenged at the first event where Trump's family refused to wear face masks throughout the proceedings.
Wednesday night, some Pence supporters – including his wife Karen Pence – failed to follow the masking protocol. And after the initial debate, the City of Cleveland reported that at least 11 people had been infected; City officials said the cases came from planning and setting up prior to the debate.
Covid-19 tests for Trump and Biden were possible until the campaigns leading up to the September 29 debate.
Another presidential debate is planned
The final presidential debate – on October 22nd in Nashville, Tennessee – remains on the Commission's presidential debate schedule. NBC presenter Kristen Welker has been selected to host this event.
Just a few weeks before the November 3rd elections, Biden's advantage in the polls has only increased since the first debate and Trump's Covid-19 diagnosis. His national survey average on FiveThirtyEight rose from 7 percentage points last week to 10 percentage points on Friday, October 9th.
Biden has a slightly closer lead in critical swing states, including Michigan, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Arizona, according to RealClearPolitics averages. Several polls after the initial debate showed voters disliked Trump's constant interruptions from Biden during the initial debate.
Polls also seem to suggest that the initial debate cemented two worrying trends for the president. the movement of older voters and suburban women from Trump to Biden. A recent CNN poll found that Biden won older voters 22 percentage points, and a post-debate poll by NBC and the Wall Street Journal found the Democrat leads the president among suburban women by 25 percentage points.
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