By Jim Ellis
Sept. 1, 2020 — The Presidential Debate series looms on the political horizon, and controversy is beginning to swirl even though the first forum is still a month away.House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said last week that Democratic nominee Joe Biden shouldn’t debate President Trump. “I wouldn’t legitimize a conversation with him, nor a debate in terms of the presidency of the United States,” she was quoted as saying at a news conference.
At the end of July, former Bill Clinton news secretary Joe Lockhart wrote for CNN.com that Biden shouldn’t debate the president. “Whatever you do, don’t debate Trump. Trump has now made more than 20,000 misleading or false statements according to the Washington Post,” Lockhart penned as public advice to Biden.
Some on the Republican side argue that these Democratic leaders are beginning to lay the groundwork for Biden to avoid the debates because of concerns their candidate would fare poorly opposite President Trump.
For his part, Biden says he will debate the president, and become his own “fact checker on the floor.” He will also begin holding campaign events after Labor Day. In an Aug. 28 interview with the Associated Press, Biden said he’ll “meet people where it matters – not at irresponsible rallies or staged for TV to boost egos, but real people’s communities, in real local businesses, in their lives.” Biden further said he’ll “hold events consistent with the state rules about crowd sizes and other regulations.”
The first debate is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 29, the second on Thursday, Oct. 15, and the final forum culminates a week later on Oct. 22. The vice presidential debate between incumbent Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 7.
The debates have proven important in the past and always draw large audiences. According to the Pew Research Center, even the first televised debate, between then-Sen. John F. Kennedy and then-Vice President Richard Nixon, drew over 66 million viewers usually on black and white televisions, at a time when the US population was just under 181 million people, or approximately 55 percent of today’s total populace.