Biden and Trump agree on ground rules for their first debate next week

(NewsNation) — Ten days before they meet, the current and former presidents of the United States have cut a final deal on the format, timing and rules of their first debate on June 27 in Atlanta.

CNN confirms that the campaigns of President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump have agreed to a set of rules that have never been used in past debates, including no audience, no notes, no help from aides and no interrupting the other man.

To enforce the “no interruption” rule, CNN will mute the microphone of one candidate while the other is speaking. The hope is to avoid the chaotic scene of the first 2020 debate when Trump constantly interrupted and ridiculed Biden to the point where he finally said, “Will you shut up, man?”

Will the rules favor Biden?

“(Trump) is the king of interrupting people. He loves to make jokes. He loves his one-liners, his zingers,” Democratic strategist Krystal Knight said Sunday on “NewsNation Prime.” “This will benefit President Biden, giving him the opportunity to fully explain himself and to fully get his comments … without having the interruption of Donald Trump,” she added.

Knight says the lack of a studio audience will also help Biden since he won’t have to hear Trump’s supporters.

“They love to heckle. They love to stand up and clap and boo. I don’t think Donald Trump is as sharp as many people think he is, and so I think that his downfall will obviously be he won’t have energy in the room by way of an audience (or) helpful advisers.”

Both men won’t be able to call on aides for help during the 90-minute debate’s two commercial breaks. The only items on the candidate’s podiums will be a pad of paper, a pen and a bottle of water.

Preparation vs. campaigning

Debate preparation time will be at a premium between now and June 27, as both men will be busy on the campaign trail.

According to The New York Times, Biden’s debate prep will be overseen by his first White House chief of staff, Ron Klain, who played the same role in 2020.

Last week, Trump met with Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Eric Schmitt, R-Mo., to run through policy and other possible debate topics, multiple sources confirmed to The Hill. Schmitt is a close Trump ally, while Rubio is among those being vetted as a potential running mate on the Republican ticket.

Under CNN’s rules, debate participants must be on the ballot in enough states to give them a chance to win the 270 electoral votes needed for victory. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is officially on the ballot in states that have a total of 89 electoral votes. Over the weekend, CNN said that “though not impossible,” it’s unlikely that Kennedy will qualify.

For the first time since it was formed in 1987, the Commission on Presidential Debates will not be involved in the two debates on the schedule so far. Cooperating with the Commission was a condition for candidates to receive federal campaign matching funds, but in 2008 former President Barack Obama refused the federal money and the restrictions attached to it. Since then most major candidates have followed suit.

The genesis of next week’s debate, and the Sept. 10 debate to be hosted by ABC, quickly came about earlier this spring. Biden released a campaign video daring the former president to meet him for debates in June and September. Trump accepted the challenge, and the debates were scheduled before the end of the day.

The modern debate history

The modern presidential debate tradition began in 1960 when John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon met four times. But it was 16 years before the next encounter. Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter faced off three times, and the first vice presidential debate entered the mix. Democrat Walter Mondale and Republican Bob Dole met once.

The first debate involving a major independent candidate occurred in September of 1980 when Republican challenger Ronald Reagan shared a stage with independent John Anderson. Incumbent President Jimmy Carter refused to participate in a three-way debate but did go one-on-one with Reagan a month later.

A trio of three-way debates occurred in 1992 between incumbent George H.W. Bush, Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton and businessman Ross Perot.

The nation got an overdose of debates starting more than a year before the 2000 general election. Republican candidates met 13 times over five months in “town halls” and formal debates. The Democratic hopefuls held nine joint events. Eventual nominees Al Gore and George W. Bush held three debates, while their running mates met once.

Debate fever was in full rage starting more than 19 months before the 2008 election, as Republicans held 16 town halls and debates, while Democrats staged 19 encounters.

The Associated Press and The Hill contributed to this report


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