NO EARLIER DEBATE. HERE’S WHY

The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) has spoken.

There will be no additional, earlier debate – you know, the one requested by President Trump on the grounds that, as presently scheduled, the first debate, on September 29th, will occur after almost a month of early voting can take place involving millions and millions of voters.

Here is the CPD’s letter to President Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, explaining why (I have put several parts in bold print).  See if you buy its rationale:

CPD Statement

August 6, 2020

Hon. Rudolph W. Giuliani

Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. 1300 N. 17th Street

14th Floor

Arlington, VA 22209

Dear Mayor Giuliani:

Thank you for your letter dated August 5. We are pleased that President Trump and Vice President Biden both have agreed to participate in the debates the Commission on Presidential Debates will sponsor on September 29 (Cleveland), October 15 (Miami-Town Hall), and October 22 (Nashville). We also look forward to the vice presidential debate scheduled for October 7 in Salt Lake City. Debate invitations will be extended after the major parties have formally nominated their respective candidates and after application of the Commission’s Non-Partisan Candidate Selection Criteria, as required by applicable law.

In your letter, you express the Trump campaign’s interest in a presidential debate in early September. You state that such a debate is necessary because some states begin sending out mail-in ballots before the first scheduled debate. There is a difference between ballots having been issued by a state and those ballots having been cast by voters, who are under no compulsion to return their ballots before the debates. In 2016, when the debate schedule was similar, only .0069% of the electorate had voted at the time of the first debate. While more people will likely vote by mail in 2020, the debate schedule has been and will be highly publicized. Any voter who wishes to watch one or more debates before voting will be well aware of that opportunity.

The Commission has found that three 90-minute debates work well to fulfill the voter education purposes the debates are intended to serve. If the candidates were to agree that they wished to add to that schedule, the Commission would consider that request but remains committed to the schedule of debates it has planned as reflected in the attached release.

You inquire about the possibility of logistical changes being necessary as a result of the pandemic. The Commission has been and remains highly focused on the possible impact of the pandemic on the debates. We have retained Cleveland Clinic as Health Security Advisor for the debates, and we are working closely with the Clinic on all aspects of debate planning potentially affected by the pandemic. The Commission will be ready for any contingency that is necessary as a result of the pandemic.

Finally, the Commission will adhere to our longstanding procedure of selecting the debate moderators. It will do so with great care, as always, to ensure that the selected moderators are qualified and fair.

Sincerely,

Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr.  Dorothy S. Ridings Kenneth Wollack

There it is.

Forgetting some of the other interesting stuff (like the admission that more people will be able to vote before the first debate this time, and the bizarre rejection of an additional debate on the grounds that the schedule has been and will be highly publicized (wouldn’t a revised schedule be highly publicized?)…

…the most important part of this letter, in my view, is that the CPD would reconsider if both candidates agreed there should be an additional, earlier debate.

That is a huge opening for President Trump.

If I were advising his campaign, I’d be telling them to very publicly request that Joe Biden add the debate, emphasizing that this would give both candidates the opportunity to present themselves to as many people as possible before they vote..

….and that refusing to do so would, and should, be seen as an admission that a candidate does not want exposure to those voters.

I’d be surprised if Trump & Co. didn’t do this in one form or another, and would seriously wonder why they did not capitalize on such an opportunity.

 

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