President Trump’s re-election campaign is formally asking that a fourth debate between the president and Democratic challenger Joe Biden be added and that the showdown be held early next month, before many states start sending out absentee ballots to voters.
In a letter sent Wednesday to the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), the Trump campaign urged that if a fourth showdown can’t be added, then the date of the first debate – scheduled for Sept. 29 – be moved up to the first week of September.
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The Trump campaign also suggested a list of proposed moderators from which the commission could choose. The list of two-dozen people included a number of anchors from Fox News and Fox Business Network.
“Simply put, the Commission’s current approach is an outdated dinosaur and not reflective of voting realities in 2020,” Rudy Giuliani argued in the letter.
The former New York City mayor and unsuccessful 2008 Republican presidential candidate who joined the president’s personal legal team in 2018, serves as a Trump campaign representative.
“For a nation already deprived of a traditional campaign schedule because of the COVID-19 global pandemic, it makes no sense to also deprive so many Americans of the opportunity to see and hear two competing visions for our country’s future before millions of votes are cast,” Giuliani said.
The Biden campaign’s Andrew Bates said in a statement in response to the request: “We have said all along, including in a letter to the commission in June, that Joe Biden will appear on the dates that the commission selected and in the locations they chose. Donald Trump has not, continually trying to insert his choice of friendly moderators, now including one who just published an op-ed offering ‘the case’ for Trump’s reelection. Joe Biden will be there. We await Donald Trump’s decision — and perhaps the president should put as much time into managing COVID as he does into this.”
Fox News reached out to the CPD for comment, but has yet to receive a response.
The Trump campaign request was no surprise. The campaign in recent days has raised its rhetoric in seeking an earlier debate or additional showdowns.
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“We want debates starting sooner,” Trump reelection campaign manager Bill Stepien said on Monday in an interview on “Fox & Friends.”
Stepien, who took over as campaign manager last month following a shakeup of leadership, emphasized that by the time of the first debate on Sept. 29, “16 states will already have been voting.”
And the president, in a wide-ranging interview Wednesday on “Fox & Friends,” said that “the one problem I have, the debate’s very late. It’s at the end of September and a lot of ballots will already be cast by that time.”
“Why are they putting the first debate so late? The first debate should be before the first – at least before the first ballots go out. And they have it a month later, almost a month later. It’s ridiculous,” Trump added.
The debates being scheduled by the CPD are for roughly the same time period they were held in the 2012 and 2016 presidential election cycles, when early in-person voting and absentee voting had also begun in many states.
The Biden campaign has repeatedly committed to the three debates laid out by the commission, despite some pundits suggesting he should skip them. The second and third primetime faceoffs are scheduled for Oct. 15 and Oct. 22, with a vice presidential debate on Oct. 7.
Biden’s wife, former second lady Jill Biden – when asked Tuesday on Fox News’ “The Daily Briefing with Dana Perino” whether her husband would take part in the three debates – answered, “Oh yes, he will. I think they’ve said that already.”
And Monday, in an appearance on Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom,” Biden deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said “there is one candidate in this race who has agreed to three debates and that’s Joe Biden.”
Trump campaign director of press communications Erin Perrine appeared to become the first Trump campaign spokesperson to say on the record that the president has agreed to the three debates when she said Tuesday on Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom” that “yes, we have agreed with the debate commission.”
After Fox News followed up with the Trump campaign, a re-election official said “we want those three debates and another one earlier than those.”
Eight states begin mailing absentee ballots to voters more than 45 days before the election. They are Arkansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Another 15 states start sending out absentee ballots to voters 45 days before the election. Those states are Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia and Wyoming.
That means many voters in nearly half the states – including the key battlegrounds of Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, as well as Minnesota, Georgia and Texas – will receive absentee ballots before the calendar turns to October.
Separately, early voting or in-person absentee balloting gets underway in mid to late September in eight states, including the battlegrounds of Michigan and Minnesota.