By ZEKE MILLER and WILL WEISSERT, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — The fate of final debates between President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden was thrown into uncertainty Thursday as the campaigns offered dueling proposals for moving forward with faceoffs that have been upended by the president’s coronavirus infection.
It was unclear when or how the next debates would proceed, or whether voters would even get to see the two men running for the White House on the same stage again before Election Day.
The whipsaw day began with an announcement from the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates, which said the next debate, a town hall-style affair set for Oct. 15 in Miami, would be held virtually. The commission cited health concerns following Trump’s infection as the reason for the change.
Trump, who is eager to return to the campaign trail despite uncertainty about his health, said he wouldn’t participate if the debate wasn’t in person. Biden’s campaign then suggested the event be delayed a week until Oct. 22, which is when the third and final debate is already scheduled.
Next, Trump countered again, agreeing to a debate on Oct. 22 — but only if face to face — and asking that a third contest be added on Oct. 29, just before the election. But Biden’s advisors rejected squaring off that late in the campaign.
The debate commission, which has the unenviable task of finding common ground between the competing campaigns, did not weigh in on any of the new proposals. The organization has come under scrutiny already after the first debate between Trump and Biden deteriorated, with the president frequently interrupting his opponent and the moderator unable to take control.