President Donald Trump is objecting to possible debate rule changes that could leave him muted in Miami.
Trump is set to clash with Democratic challenger Joe Biden on Oct. 15 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in the second of three presidential debates, putting the nation’s political eyes on South Florida.
Pundits widely panned the first debate in Cleveland as a chaotic shoutfest filled with interruptions. In response, the Commission on Presidential Debates issued a statement that it is mulling rule changes “to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues.”
Those changes haven’t been unveiled, but one idea that has been floated is a mute button that would cut off the microphone if a candidate doesn’t adhere to the rules.
On Thursday, Trump and his campaign pushed back against changes.
"Why would I allow the Debate Commission to change the rules for the second and third Debates when I easily won last time?’ Trump tweeted.
In a call with reporters, deputy campaign manager Max Miller said the Biden campaign suggested adding opening and closing statements to the debates, reducing the time for “open-discussion” to “almost nothing” and providing the moderator with a mute button.
Trump “fully intends to participate” in the second and third debates but “doesn’t want any changes to what has already been laid out and agreed to,” said Jason Miller, a senior adviser to the president’s campaign.
“It didn’t turn out the way they wanted,” he said. “That is why there is discussion of changes.”
The Biden campaign did not comment on whether it made suggestions to the Commission on Presidential Debates as described by a Trump campaign staffer. Both campaigns have touted polls showing their candidate won the debate.
“Perhaps if the President and his team spent as much time worrying about the country as they do about debate rules, he would not be trailing and would not have engaged in the desperate, out-of-control behavior — emblematic of his tenure — that he showed on Tuesday night," Andrew Bates, a Biden campaign spokesman, said in a prepared statement.
During an appearance in Ohio, Biden told reporters, “I just hope there’s a way in which the debate commission can control the ability of us to answer the question without interruption.”
Miami’s debate will be hosted by Steve Scully, political editor at C-SPAN. As previously agreed, the format will be different. Voters will ask questions in a town-hall style discussion. That could be less conducive to the frequent interruptions that plagued Tuesday’s debate.
Chris Wallace, the Fox News anchor who moderated the first debate, called it a “total mess and disservice to our country" and said Trump bears the “primary responsibility for what happened” because of his frequent interruptions.
Wallace said he doesn’t think a mute button is a good idea.
“I don’t want to be in the position of saying I am going to interpose myself between the president and the public and say you can’t hear what he has to say now," Wallace said on Fox News. "I think that is a pretty tough spot to put any moderator in.”
Skyler Swisher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 561-243-6634 or @SkylerSwisher
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