Biden, Trump agree to debate June 27 on CNN

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By Nandita Bose and Doina Chiacu

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden and Republican rival Donald Trump on Wednesday accepted an invitation from CNN to host the candidates’ first 2024 debate on June 27, setting up a high-stakes clash.

“As you said: anywhere, any time, any place,” Biden said on social media after the Democrat for the first time laid out his terms for taking on the former president on national television.

“President Trump has already accepted the CNN debate invitation for June 27,” Trump’s campaign managers said.

But differences between the two sides remained. Biden said he would participate in two debates, in June and September, while Trump called for more than two – and a very large venue “for excitement purposes.”

The Democratic president’s proposal, the first formal offer by his campaign, ditched the decades-old tradition of three fall debates and called for direct negotiations between the Trump and Biden campaigns over the rules, network hosts and moderators. He also proposed a separate vice presidential debate in July, after the Republican National Convention.

A debate is fraught with risks for both candidates, who face a tight race and low enthusiasm from voters.

Biden’s move shows he is willing to take a calculated risk to boost his opinion poll numbers in a race in which he is trailing Trump in key battleground states, as voters remain concerned about his age – 81 – and his handling of the economy. Trump is 77.

“Make my day, pal,” Biden said in a video message. “I’ll even do it twice.”

Trump responded to Biden by calling him “the worst debater” he has ever faced. “I am Ready and Willing to Debate Crooked Joe at the two proposed times in June and September,” he posted.

Trump, who refused to debate his rivals in the Republican primary race, has in recent weeks been challenging Biden to engage in a one-on-one matchup with him.

Biden said he would like to debate Trump on the repeal of the Roe v. Wade decision that guaranteed a national right to abortion, the threat the former president poses to democracy, and Trump’s economic plans.

Trump told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt the debate should be two hours long and that both men should be required to stand.

Biden’s team earlier requested that only broadcast networks that hosted Republican primary debates in 2016 and Democratic primary debates in 2020 be eligible to host this year. Only four networks hosted debates for both parties during those election cycles: CNN, Telemundo, CBS News and ABC News.

SHUNNING THE DEBATE COMMISSION

Biden said he would not take part in the traditional televised showdowns organized by the Commission on Presidential Debates, rejecting the nonpartisan organization that has managed presidential debates since 1988.

Trump has also previously expressed interest in bypassing the commission, and the Republican National Committee announced in 2022 that the party would leave the commission’s debate system altogether.

In a letter explaining the decision, Biden’s campaign chair, Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, cited the commission’s past struggles to keep candidates from violating the debate rules. She notified the commission that Biden will not be participating in the three general-election debates sponsored by the group, which are scheduled for Sept. 16, Oct. 1 and Oct. 9.

“The debates should be conducted for the benefit of the American voters, watching on television and at home — not as entertainment for an in-person audience with raucous or disruptive partisans and donors, who consume valuable debate time with noisy spectacles of approval or jeering,” she said.

The Biden campaign wants the debates to start much sooner than the dates proposed by the commission, so voters can see the two candidates side by side before early voting begins in September. The first debate would take place after the June 15 conclusion of the Group of Seven summit in Italy and the conclusion of Trump’s criminal trial in New York.

The campaign also wants it to be just the two candidates and the moderator — without an in-person audience and the participation of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. or any other independent or third-party candidates.

Kennedy and the other contenders would not qualify under the commission’s rules given their current rankings in polling and ballot access.

“They are trying to exclude me from their debate because they are afraid I would win,” Kennedy said on social media.

(Reporting by Nandita Bose and Doina Chiacu; Additional reporting by Nathan Layne, Trevor Hunnicutt and Stephanie Kelly, Editing by Susan Heavey, Gareth Jones and Jonathan Oatis)

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