Photo-Illustration: Intelligencer; Photo: Getty Images
With this year’s political cycle fully in the rearview mirror, a presidential race that most Americans appear to be dreading now takes center stage. A reminder of that looming reality came on Monday when the Commission on Presidential Debates announced dates for three presidential debates next year. Now the question is which potential nominees, if any, will wait?
The 90-minute debates will — or might — go down on September 16 at Texas State University in San Marcos, October 1 at Virginia State University in Petersburg, and October 9 at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. And a vice-presidential debate is set for September 25 at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. Additional details regarding debate format or moderators will be revealed by the commission next year.
This is all standard operating procedures for the commission. But unlike in past years, it’s unclear whether these debates will actually happen. During the 2020 election, Joe Biden and Donald Trump previously met twice on the debate stage. Their first debate became notorious not just for Trump’s chaotic interruptions of both his opponent and the moderator but because Trump likely exposed Biden to COVID-19 after testing positive days earlier.
But so far, neither side has officially agreed to a future verbal bout. The wild card here is Trump since the Republican National Committee notably voted last year to withdraw from the CPD, claiming the organization has a bias toward Democrats. Trump himself, though, has suggested previously that he would be open to debating Biden, telling https://twitter.com/ShelbyTalcott/status/1671287779278331906?s=20 in June, “We have to debate. He and I definitely have to debate. That’s what I love.” Biden’s team hasn’t fully weighed in on debate possibilities. Michael Tyler, the campaign’s communications director, told reporters in August, “To be honest with you, we haven’t really had any substantive conversations about that yet.”
If Trump doesn’t participate, there may be another option: Biden could potentially share a stage with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Participants will have to be polling at a minimum of 15 percent in national polls, and Kennedy, who recently announced he would run an independent campaign, has been polled in the double digits over the past few weeks. His numbers are likely to fade, though, and given Biden’s reluctance to debate him during the primaries, it’s far from clear whether he’d go for it next fall.
If no presidential debates take place at all, it would be the first time without one since 1972.