Now that the conventions are over, the American people will await the upcoming presidential debates between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Here is everything you need to know about them.
There are three debates scheduled. Here are the places and dates in which they will take place:
- Hofstra University, Sept. 26.
- Washington University, Oct. 9.
- University of Nevada Las Vegas, Oct. 19.
Clinton has already made clear that she will participate in the debates. Her campaign chairman, John Podesta, said in a statement, “Secretary Clinton looks forward to participating in all three presidential debates scheduled by the independent debate commission. With so much at stake in the fall elections, she believes these debates will provide the American people with an important opportunity to hear from the candidates on issues critical to the country’s future.”
Podesta then laid out a challenge for Trump.
“The only issue now is whether Donald Trump is going to show up to debate at the date, times, places and formats set by the commission last year through a bipartisan process,” he said. “We will accept the commission’s invitation and expect Donald Trump to do the same.”
Trump has said he will participate as well…with “conditions.” In a Tuesday interview with Time magazine, Trump said, “I will absolutely do three debates. I want to debate very badly. But I have to see the conditions.”
Trump specified “that certain moderators would be unacceptable.”
“I want to have fair moderators … I will demand fair moderators,” Trump said.
Trump has previously complained that a couple of the debates will coincide with football. “Hillary wants to be against the NFL,” Trump said in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, suggesting that the present format was similar to the debates during the primary, which were scheduled at inopportune times when no one would watch them.
The real estate mogul also claimed that the league had sent him a letter about it.
“I got a letter from the NFL saying, ‘This is ridiculous. Why are the debates against –,’ because the NFL doesn’t want to go against the debates,” Trump said.
The NFL responded by saying they never sent a letter to Trump, but expressed their preference for the debates not to be scheduled during football games. The Trump campaign later backed away from Trump’s claim about the letter, claiming “a source close to the league” told them about the scheduling conflicts.
The Commission on Presidential Debates defended the debate schedule by saying that they had determined the schedule about a year and a half ago.
“It is impossible to avoid all sporting events, and there have been nights on which debates and games occurred in most election cycles,” the commission said in a statement. “A debate has never been rescheduled as a result.”
It is plausible that Trump won’t participate in the debates. The Washington Post‘s Aaron Blake makes the case that given Trump’s complaints about the upcoming debates, when coupled with the fact that he skipped the Jan. 28 debate during the primary as well as his refusal to participate in a March 21 debate, his lack of knowledge of policy details and Clinton’s ability to bait Trump–as she did with the Khan family–all adds up to the actual possibility that Trump won’t debate Clinton.
The New Yorker‘s Jonathan Chait argued something similar:
Trump is a vacuous celebrity blowhard with no experience in politics or public policy. Questions about specifics tend to expose a howling chasm of ignorance, whether it concerns the nuclear triad or the imaginary 12th article of the Constitution. He barely reads anything, and according to people inside his campaign, he watches television all day long. Even if Trump had any intention of making up the vast deficit in knowledge about public policy separating him from a normal presidential candidate, he lacks the attention span to focus.
How did Trump get through the Republican debates then? Mostly he relied on the protection afforded him by the large crowds onstage, which let his insult-and-run method of dodging substantive queries work for him. When the campaign had narrowed to a one-on-one showdown between Trump and Ted Cruz, Cruz repeatedly challenged Trump to one-on-one debates, only to be rebuffed. Trump was ahead, yes, but not by an insurmountable margin the whole time. What he knew was that letting Cruz face him on a stage alone, where other candidates couldn’t break in, would have gone very badly for him.
Given the fact that Trump is down big in the polls, the debates provide Trump with an opportunity to gain some ground on Clinton. However, the aforementioned reasons suggest that the debates could end up causing Trump’s poll numbers to plummet even further.
There is also a real possibility that one of the third party candidates could make the debate stage. Commission on Presidential Debates co-chair Mike McCurry, who at one point was the press secretary for President Bill Clinton, mentioned to Politico that the Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson, could actually make the debate stage.
“With [former Gov.] Gary Johnson polling in some places more than double digits, they might have, some of our production people may have said, ‘Just in case, you need to plan out what that might look like,'” McCurry said.
Politico also pointed Frank Fahrenkopf, another co-chair, who said to CNBC, “If someone came in and let’s say he was [polling] at 14.5 percent and the margin of error in five polls was 3 points, we are going to have to sit down and look at it. But right now that person would not be included.”
In other words, if Johnson is close to the 15 percent polling threshold needed to qualify for the debate stage, the commission would seriously consider letting him onstage. As of now, Johnson is at 8.6 percent in the RealClearPolitics polling averages.