Clinton agrees to all three presidential debates as media worries Trump won’t show; Update: I’ll do three, says Trump, if…

posted at 1:31 pm on August 9, 2016 by Allahpundit

Hillary had no choice but to agree to one, as she doesn’t want voters concluding that the first woman commander-in-chief is too scared to face down her alpha-male opponent onstage. I’m surprised, though, given her lead in the polls that she’d agree upfront to all three. That’s three chances for Trump to knock this election off of its trajectory. Maybe Clinton really is that confident in her debating skills that she’s willing to give him three shots at taking her down instead of one.

Or maybe Team Hillary’s betting that Trump is too scared to debate and they’re trying to brighten the media spotlight for when he eventually passes. If they make a big deal of the “will he or won’t he?” question and he ends up declining, the press will go nuts about brave, brave Sir Robin running away.

“Secretary Clinton looks forward to participating in all three presidential debates scheduled by the independent debate commission,” Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta said…

“It is concerning that the Trump campaign is already engaged in shenanigans around these debates,” Podesta said. “It is not clear if he is trying to avoid debates, or merely toying with the press to create more drama,” Podesta said. “Either way, our campaign is not interested in playing along with a debate about debates or bargaining around them.”

“The only issue now,” wrote Podesta, “is whether Donald Trump is going to show up to debate at the date, times, places and formats set by the commission last year through a bipartisan process.” Whether or not Trump is seriously considering passing on the debates, Clinton obviously wants voters to believe that he’s wavering out of fear of how he might do. Lo and behold, look what’s in Politico’s Playbook today:

There is increasing concern in news and political circles that Donald Trump will not agree to the three slated presidential debates this fall, a historic break with political norms in the lead-up to the election…

Debate moderators have not been announced, but Republican and Democratic sources, senior media executives and anchors in New York and Washington are casting serious doubt about whether Trump will agree to participate in the primetime events.

Multiple typically chatty Trump sources either passed the buck or did not respond to emails about whether the GOP presidential nominee is committed to participating.

No named sources there, just a mishmash of “people are saying” blather. The only interesting bit is Trump’s own people refusing to confirm that he’ll attend, but that’s probably just showmanship designed to build hype. Realistically, there’s no way he passes on the debates now. A month ago, trailing by three points nationally, he might have reasonably calculated that debating one-on-one on a big stage would end up doing him more harm than good by revealing that he’s not prepared on policy. You can play conservatively in that scenario and find a pretext for saying no. Now, down 8-10 points in many polls, the game has changed. For the moment, Trump is facing the equivalent of trailing by two touchdowns with three minutes to play. He’ll have to start taking risks to have a chance and the only opportunity for a gamechanger that’s within his own control are the debates. if he passes on them anyway, he’s either all but forfeiting the election or conceding that he fears he might do so badly that Clinton’s already huge lead would grow afterwards.

He’ll be there, if for no other reason than that Donald Trump, of all people, isn’t going to turn down an audience of 75 million people. They could turn the debates into a dance-off and he’d show up for national attention on that scale. Besides, no matter how worried he and his team might be about him not knowing his stuff, his speeches have had some solid, memorable lines positioning Clinton and free-traders from both parties as enemies of the working man. Even if he turns every question into an opportunity to recite unrelated talking points about her, that’ll still work to his advantage. If just a third of the viewing audience is willing to let their vote be influenced by the debates, that’s still 25 million votes that Trump could move in theory. Clinton’s lead now is probably as big as it can get and may well shrink organically before the first debate, putting him in a position to make a major play for the lead with a good performance. He really has nothing to lose at this point.

Update: Trump says he’s game for three debates. But…

“I will absolutely do three debates,” Trump told TIME in a phone interview. “I want to debate very badly. But I have to see the conditions.”…

“I renegotiated the debates in the primaries, remember? They were making a fortune on them and they had us in for three and a half hours and I said that’s ridiculous,” Trump said. “I’m sure they’ll be open to any suggestions I have, because I think they’ll be very fair suggestions. But I haven’t [seen the conditions] yet. They’re actually presented to me tonight.”…

“I’ll have to see who the moderators are. Yeah, I would say that certain moderators would be unacceptable, absolutely,” Trump said. “I did very well in the debates on the primaries. According to the polls, I won all of them. So I look forward to the debates. But, yeah, I want to have fair moderators … I will demand fair moderators.”


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