Steve Scully, the political editor of C-SPAN, told me it would be “enormously difficult” for either candidate to bypass the debates, which he said have become a seminal part of American politics. “It’s the final big moment in this campaign, and there is so much at stake right now, with the economy, coronavirus, and Black Lives Matter,” Scully said. “I cannot imagine any scenario that either campaign would say, ‘We’re going to skip these debates.’ The pressure is just too enormous, and I think the American people are going to want that. They’re going to demand that.”

A veteran White House correspondent echoed that sentiment. “I just don’t see Trump skipping the debates,” said the correspondent. “They may be one of the rare chances he has to stop Biden’s momentum. But as we saw during the campaign, he can be wildly unpredictable. He skipped one debate early on during the primaries. And during the general election debates, he turned one debate into a stunt, bringing in women who had accused Bill Clinton of misconduct. One has to assume he will go to the debates for the sheer spectacle of these moments. Huge TV audiences. Big ratings. He’s going to skip that?”