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US: Biden says open to 2 presidential debates against Trump

May 15, 2024

"Make my day, pal. I'll even do it twice," US President Joe Biden said in a short video message aimed at Donald Trump. The former president accepted and the first debate is scheduled for June 27.

This combination of Sept. 29, 2020, file photos shows President Donald Trump, left, and former Vice President Joe Biden during the first presidential debate at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio.
Trump and Biden took part in a pair of debates in the 2020 campaign, the fewest for any US presidential election since 1996Image: Patrick Semansky/AP Photo/picture-alliance

Following repeated challenges from Donald Trump in recent weeks, US President Joe Biden made his most direct comments yet on the prospect of holding televised presidential debates during the election campaign this year. 

"Donald Trump lost two debates to me in 2020, and since then he hasn't shown up for a debate," Biden said in a short video posted online. "Now he's acting like he wants to debate me again. Well, make my day, pal. I'll even do it twice." 

The president also made a veiled reference to Trump's legal problems and the mid-week breaks from his various court appointments

"So let's pick the dates, Donald. I hear you're free Wednesdays," Biden said.

The second part of Biden's post incorporated an appeal for campaign donations and said the debate would pit "me and this grassroots team versus Donald Trump and his MAGA minions."

"It will be democracy versus authoritarianism. Revenge and retribution versus a vision for our future," Biden wrote.  

Trump 'ready and willing,' calls for 'very large venue' 

Biden's campaign recommended seeking dates in June and September, well before the November vote.

Trump, who declined to participate in the Republican presidential primaries but nonetheless won the primary votes comfortably, responded soon after in the affirmative, saying he was "ready to Rumble!"

"I am Ready and Willing to debate Crooked Joe at the two proposed times in June and September," Trump wrote on his Truth Social website with characteristic disregard for the proper use of capital letters that persisted throughout the post. 

He described Biden as the "WORST debater I have ever faced," and called for a "very large venue, although Biden is supposedly afraid of crowds." 

US news outlet CNN said it would host the first debate on June 27. ABC television will broadcast the second debate on September 10.

Vice presidential debates will be scheduled after the Republican National Convention, which takes place in July. 

People sitting in cars watching President Donald Trump, on left of video screen, and Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speak during a Presidential Debate Watch Party at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020.
The 2020 debates were watched by roughly 80 million people in the US alone, some of them in rather unusual venues like this makeshift drive-in movie theater outside the Fort Mason Center in San FranciscoImage: Jeff Chiu/AP Photo/picture alliance

Biden campaign recommends early debates, hosted by news channels

Biden and Trump had been sparring on the issue on and off for months in their public comments, though it was still not clear whether televised debates would materialize, or where or when. 

Biden campaign chair Jen O'Malley Dillon on Wednesday sent a letter to the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates, established in 1987 in a bid to ease the often difficult process of arranging such debates, saying that Biden would not take part in its announced dates.

She said that the current structure the Commission uses was "out of step with the changes in the structure of our elections and the interests of voters." 

Instead, she said the campaign was recommending direct talks with the Trump campaign to arrange a pair of debates hosted by television news channels. Biden's team recommended scheduling the first as soon as June. The elections are on November 5. 

In the past, both Biden and Trump's teams had questioned the commission's proposed dates, saying that they took place too late, after early voting began and, therefore, potentially after some people cast ballots.

Early in-person voting dates vary drastically by state, if the process is permitted at all, but it can begin more than a month before election day.

Trump and Biden faced off in two presidential debates in 2020. Perceived results varied quite broadly but most TV pollsters saw either a clear or a narrow Biden victory in both. Respondents were more unanimous in their opinion that the debates were more "negative" than positive in tone; around four in five viewers held that opinion. 

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msh/lo (AFP, AP, Reuters)