“It is now clear that there will be no debate on October 15,” the committee said in a statement. “The People’s Protection Committee will turn its attention to preparations for the final presidential debate scheduled for October 22.”
The committee, with the support of its health advisers, announced Thursday morning that – due to Trump’s infection with the Coronavirus – the debate that was scheduled to be held almost in Miami, and the two candidates will appear from remote locations. Trump quickly rejected that plan, saying he would not appear and launch a chain of events that would question the future of all general election discussions.
In response to Trump’s cancellation, a Biden spokeswoman swiftly said they would have approved hypothetically for next Thursday’s contest, but since the president has apparently been out on bail, they will reserve another coordination for the former vice president to answer questions. And they did exactly that when ABC News announced, later in the day, that they would be hosting a town hall with the former vice president.
“Vice President Biden looks forward to presenting his case to the American people on how to overcome this pandemic, restore American leadership and our alliances in the world and bring together the American people,” Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said Friday in a statement. “It is a shame that Donald Trump avoids the only debate in which voters are asking questions – but this is not surprising.”
The Trump campaign, in response to their candidate backing out of the debate, released three statements on Thursday that criticized the committee and prompted Biden’s campaign to agree to a personal discussion and said they would be willing to postpone the October 15 debate. A week until October 22 and then moved the third debate to October 29, just days before the November 3 elections.
But the Biden campaign rejected their proposal, with campaign spokeswoman Kate Bidingfield saying in response, “Donald Trump is not setting the schedule for a discussion; the panel does.”
The Trump campaign argued this was because the chief’s Navy doctor was the lead. Dr. Sean Connelly has authorized him to travel, the committee must take the discussion to a personal location. Trump is now in talks to meet with NBC on Thursday instead of a discussion, according to a person familiar with the plans, but this source warned that things are far from finished.
If the event paid off, both city hall candidates would participate in separate events rather than discussion, which was to be coordinated by City Hall.
“There is no medical reason to stop the October 15 debate in Miami from operating as scheduled, because the president will be in good health and ready to debate,” Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said in a statement on Friday. “There is also no reason why there are not three full presidential debates as Joe Biden originally agreed. We have suggested using October 22 and October 29 to hold the last two debates. It is time for the bias committee to stop protecting Biden and prevent voters from hearing the presidential candidates.”
He added that Trump would be willing to discuss Biden without the committee interfering.
The cancellation is a political loss for Trump, who has fallen in all national opinion polls and either behind Biden or tied to him in major swing states. Losing a debate deprives the president of a platform he needs while his campaign is delayed. The first debate between Trump and Biden is a messy affair, watched by more than 73 million people.
However, the reality of the committee is that once Trump withdrew and Biden agreed to ABC’s city council, a second discussion between the two candidates was unlikely, according to multiple sources familiar with the negotiations.
Committee Chairman Frank Frenkoff told CNN Thursday evening that Trump’s campaign for a personal debate next week in Miami after the president had already pulled out of the contest had done little to change the Presidential Debating Committee’s belief that any discussion next week should be hypothetical.
“The Cleveland Clinic will have to evacuate,” said Fahrenkoff. But he added that this does not re-engage the Biden campaign, something the committee chair believes is unlikely to happen after talks with Biden’s top aides.
“They have moved on and will do this thing with ABC,” added Fahrenkopf. “It only looks good if the Biden campaign changes their minds.”
The negotiations between the Campaigns and the Commission earlier on Friday did nothing to change the fact that the likelihood of a discussion in Miami was low.
“It is fair to say that it looks like Miami will be canceled,” a source familiar with today’s negotiations told CNN. “I don’t think there is any move on either side that would make Miami materialize.”
This story has been updated with reaction to the announcement Friday evening.
CNN’s Caitlan Collins and DJ Judd contributed to this report.