Biden, Trump agree to debates in June and September

When President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump participated in the final presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, on Oct 22. [AFP]

U.S. President Joe Biden and his challenger in the November 5 election, former President Donald Trump, agreed Wednesday to two debates, one on June 27 and another on September 10.

CNN said the two campaigns agreed to hold the first faceoff in six weeks at its studios in Atlanta without an audience. The second debate is being hosted by ABC News.

The announcement for the pair of debates came together quickly on Wednesday.

Trump, a Republican who lost his reelection bid to Biden in 2020 although he still falsely claims he was cheated out of a new term in the White House, has for several weeks called for a series of debates leading up to the 2024 national vote. Biden, a Democrat, recently agreed to debate him.

On Wednesday, Biden’s campaign suggested the June and September dates, while saying he would not participate in the three debates proposed for September and October by the nonpartisan presidential debate commission that has organized the quadrennial debates for three decades.

Trump, in a post on his Truth Social site, said he was “ready and willing to debate” Biden next month and in September. CNN, the 24-hour cable news network, announced the first debate date a short time later and said two of its veteran anchors, Jake Tapper and Dana Bash, would moderate it.

Both candidates immediately taunted each other, leaving decisions on parameters of the debate for another day, such as to what extent the two candidates would have their microphones shut off when the other is speaking and how long each debate would be.

"Donald Trump lost two debates to me in 2020, since then, he hasn't shown up for a debate,” Biden said in a post on the X social media platform. "Now he's acting like he wants to debate me again. Well, make my day, pal."

Trump, for his part, said Biden was the "WORST debater I have ever faced - He can't put two sentences together!"

Before June 27, a Thursday, was picked for the first encounter, Biden’s camp taunted Trump, saying the Republican was “free on Wednesdays,” the usual midweek day off for Trump’s ongoing hush money criminal trial in New York.

In any event, testimony in the case, in which Trump is accused of falsifying business records at his Trump Organization real estate conglomerate to hide a hush money payment to a porn star just before his successful 2016 campaign, is nearing the end, with jury deliberations to follow.

The trial most likely will be over in the next two weeks or so.

As it stands, the CNN debate will be between Biden and Trump only, although the network left open the possibility that an independent candidate, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., or another third-party candidate, could meet a 15% polling threshold and ballot access requirements to join the debate stage.

Both Biden and Trump have been wary about Kennedy’s candidacy, fearing he could capture enough votes in key political battleground states to tip the national outcome.

In the U.S., the national popular vote does not determine who becomes president. Rather, the election is essentially a state-by-state vote, with the winner in each of the 50 states winning electoral votes to determine the overall outcome.

The most populous states have the most electoral votes and thus hold the most sway in determining who wins the White House for a new four-year term that starts January 20.