Organizers of presidential debate hit mute button on microphones

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Donald Trump and Joe Biden will face hurdles to stop in the final debate this week, after the organizer said he would sometimes cut their microphones to avoid the chaos of their first meeting.

The move followed strong criticism of last month’s event, which critics said was unassailable as the president kept interrupting Mr. Biden, the Democratic candidate.

The Commission on Presidential Debates has said it will cut a candidate’s microphone when his opponent delivers his two-minute opening remarks in each segment of the debate on Thursday evening.

“We realize. . . that neither of the two campaigns can be fully satisfied, ”the commission said. “You may think they are going too far, and you may think they are not going far enough. [But] We are convinced that these actions strike the right balance and that they are in the interest of the American people, for whom these debates are organized. ”

Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden will meet in Nashville, Tennessee, on Thursday for their final debate, 12 days before the election. They were due to hold another debate in Miami last week, but Mr Trump withdrew after the committee made the event virtual after the president contracted Covid-19.

The Trump campaign criticized the latest move, but said the president was “determined to debate Joe Biden regardless of last-minute rule changes by the biased commission in its latest attempt to provide an advantage to its preferred candidate “.

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Earlier Monday, the Trump campaign complained to the commission that the moderator had chosen a range of topics, including the pandemic and race relations, instead of focusing on foreign policy.

Bill Stepien, Mr Trump’s campaign manager, said the final debate was supposed to focus on international affairs. But the Biden campaign said both sides have agreed that the moderators will decide on the topics for debate.

While the decision to mute the microphones was criticized by their team, several Trump advisers said after the first debate that the president should have interrupted less and allowed Mr. Biden to ramble.

Under the new rules, candidates will still be able to answer and pause once they have made their opening statements on topics that will also include climate change, national security and leadership.

Mr Trump wants to avoid debating the pandemic, especially since the death toll in the United States exceeds 220,000, and also because it gives Mr Biden a platform to castigate him for his widespread handling of the health crisis.

Mr Trump has criticized Anthony Fauci, America’s foremost infectious disease expert, calling him a “disaster” as he tries to deflect blame for his response to the pandemic. He was responding to a television interview in which Dr Fauci said he was not surprised that Mr Trump had contracted the virus.

“People are tired of listening to Fauci and these idiots,” Mr. Trump told his campaign team on a call.

Thursday’s debate comes as Mr. Trump follows Mr. Biden in the polls. Mr Biden leads just under nine points nationally, according to an average compiled by Real Clear Politics. With the sole exception of Ohio, Mr. Briden leads Mr. Trump in all the swing states, which are critical to securing 270 votes in the electoral college.

Democrats won on Monday when the Supreme Court rejected Republicans’ demand to block a three-day extension to accept mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania, a key swing state, following the Nov. 3 election.

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Marsh Notes

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