A Few Thoughts About the 2024 Presidential Debates

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Two debates are scheduled between President Biden and former President Trump. We are in uncharted territory. 

Trump extended a challenge to Biden when he said he was ready to debate any time and any place. Biden tried to laugh it off and duck the question about debates. Then he went on Howard Stern's radio show and when Biden was asked if he planned to debate Trump, Biden shocked everyone and casually replied yes, he would debate Trump. I would have loved to see the looks on the faces of his staff when they heard him say that. 

The White House let that surprise die down and fade away. The problem for Biden's re-election campaign is that Biden's poll numbers continue to circle the drain. Trump is up - some by a lot - in all the swing states, except for Wisconsin. In Wisconsin Biden is two points ahead. It is doubtful that Biden's lead will hold there if the polling trends continue. Kamala is campaigning in Milwaukee today. It is her fourth trip there. This kind of lead in swing states for Trump did not happen in 2020. 

The panic is real among Team Biden and it is spectacular. Biden is on the defense while Trump is playing offense and riding the momentum his campaign is experiencing right now. 

On Wednesday, out of the blue, Biden posted a video on social media. He challenged Trump to two debates and listed the media outlets that are acceptable to him - CNN and ABC News were on that list. Fox News Channel was not. Shocker, I know. Biden has not been interviewed on FNC during his time in the White House. When he does a rare interview, he turns to CNN and ABC News. Both networks are very Biden-friendly.

A quick two hours later, Biden (his staff, let's be honest) posted again on his social media account. This time it was to say that CNN offered to host a debate in Atlanta on June 27. On the list of debate demands, Team Biden specified June 27 and September 10. Biden said he accepted CNN's offer and challenged Trump to do the same. 

In no time at all, Trump accepted on Truth Social. 

Then came the Biden post that he agreed to a debate on September 10 with ABC News. Trump again quickly agreed. It is reported that while it looks like the two debates came together quickly, the campaigns had been discussing options for weeks. 

Trump said he accepted a third debate - this one on Fox. The Biden campaign shot that down. The campaign said that Biden's list of conditions was clear. They insist there will be only two debates. 

So, here we are. 

It seems to me that all of this is a little too convenient for Team Biden. Of course, presidential debates always favor the Democrat candidate. There are few Republicans in network media. Network hosts no longer pretend to be non-partisan in their approach to interviews. Democrat moderators have been helping Democrat presidential candidates for years - think Candy Crowley and Chris Wallace. 

The timeline suggests that Team Biden had everything in place when it began posting about debates. It looked like the two campaigns were negotiating online, yet it appears it was all settled before Biden's first post.

That video, though. Biden's video when he challenged Trump to accept his offer to debate when it was Biden who accepted Trump's initial debate challenge was typical of Biden. There are five edit cuts in a 13-second video. Think about that. The man can't get a sentence or two out without flubbing up the script. I don't think the Biden campaign wants him on a debate stage at all. 

I rarely entertain conspiracy theories. It just seems to me that Team Biden agreed to do these two debates because there will be opportunities for him to back out.  

Hear me out - Trump's trial in Manhattan will probably be over by June 27. What if he is found guilty of something? We know the deck is stacked against Trump. He can't get a fair trial in Manhattan. The trial is nonsense anyway. It's a trial in search of a crime. The judge is a Biden contributor and his daughter is fundraising for Biden and Democrats to the tune of millions of dollars. The judge won't dismiss the case. 

Everyone expects Trump to be found guilty and that gives Biden the chance to say he won't debate a felon. Never mind that the star witness in the trial is Michael Cohen, a convicted felon who served time in jail. It would be a lame excuse for Biden to use but it's something to think about. 

Let's not forget that Biden said he may or may not debate Trump, depending on Trump's behavior, when the topic of debates first came up. That is a generalization that Biden can easily find a reason to use. 

The debate moderators have been announced. Jake Tapper and Dana Bash will host the debate on CNN. There is no way that Trump will get a fair and balanced moderator at CNN. CNN depends on its Trump trashing to maintain the ratings it gets, small as those numbers are. The network pushed the Russia collusion hoax with enthusiasm for the duration of Trump's term in office and beyond. Currently, the network contributors are busy claiming the trial in Manhattan shows how guilty Trump is. 

Remember when Jake Tapper hosted a town hall after the mass shooting at the high school in Florida? The town hall was set up to allow Senator Marco Rubio and conservative radio host Dana Loesch to be pummeled by the audience. They were blamed for the mass shooting and Tapper stood back and let it happen. It was all about pushing gun control and politicizing a tragedy. 

Currently, Tapper is a host on CNN who is vocal about not allowing Trump's speeches to be played in real-time because he says Trump lies. No such charge against Joe Biden, though, who has proven to be a serial liar and lifetime fabulist. 

The moderators for the ABC News debate are David Muir and Linsey Davis. 

ABC News has not announced the format for its debate, although one source said that it will be in studio as well. The announcement of the moderators was made on World News Tonight, which Muir anchors. Davis anchors the streaming newscast ABC News Live Prime

George Stephanopoulos is the political director at ABC News. He's a former staffer for Bill Clinton, a campaign staffer for Clinton before that, and a Democrat activist. There is no pretense to non-biased hosting on his Sunday morning political show. 

The campaigns have eliminated the Commission on Presidential Debates in the process. That means third-party candidates don't have to be included. This eliminates Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., for example. He is polling strong enough in many polls that he may sway the general election in November. Does he pull from Trump or Biden? My opinion is that he pulls more from Biden. Biden worked to keep Kennedy off the primary ballot. That is why a Kennedy from a legendary Democrat family is running as an independent. Crooked Joe is trying to eliminate all of his political opponents. It is very Third World-ish in Biden's America. Biden governs as a banana republic dictator. 

Trump has agreed to everything. Some question why he is doing that. I think it is because Trump issued the first challenge and said any time, anywhere. He's living up to his challenge. I think Trump can handle anything the Democrats throw at him. It's Joe Biden who isn't up to debating Trump and his campaign knows it. There won't be his video team there to cut and edit his answers as the debate plays out. They will have to wait until after the debate for that. 

Trump is a more mature candidate this time. I don't think he will be as unruly as he was in the first debate against Biden in 2020. Biden was as unruly as Trump but only Trump was criticized, of course. Biden began interrupting Trump first. This time the rules will be that mics will be cut when the candidate's time is finished. 

There will be no audience so the debates will have less energy in the room. The Biden campaign wants to avoid any potential pro-Hamas protesters in the room. Biden doesn't do particularly well in front of an audience but Trump thrives on them. 

The media bias has already begun.

All of the debate rules are set up to benefit Biden. Even so, I'm skeptical that they will happen. I hope I'm wrong. I'll stock up on popcorn, just in case.

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John Stossel 1:00 PM | June 15, 2024