May 15, 2024 - Politics & Policy

2024 upends the debates

This is them

Trump and Biden debating in 2020. Photo: Morry Gash/AP/Bloomberg via Getty Images

In a whirlwind few hours, President Biden and former President Trump have upended the traditional presidential debates — and moved to box out RFK Jr.

  • Biden and Trump have accepted a CNN invite for a debate on June 27, the two candidates said this morning. That's before either party has its national convention to officially pick presidential nominees.
  • RFK Jr. accused the two today of "colluding" against his campaign to "avoid discussion of their eight years of mutual failure."

Why it matters: Both Biden and Trump are genuinely convinced the country will side with them after seeing the two of them on stage together.

  • Trump doesn't believe Biden has the mental or physical stamina for the job.
  • Biden thinks people will recoil at Trump's behavior and rhetoric.

To catch you up on today's rapid-fire back and forth:

  • Biden's campaign announced this morning it wouldn't take part in fall debates by the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates. It offered one-on-one debates with Trump in June and September, with no studio audience and microphones that could be cut.
  • Trump immediately accepted, telling Salem Media radio host Hugh Hewitt he'll debate with any moderator.
  • Biden then said he'd accepted the CNN debate, and Trump agreed.
  • The Trump campaign then proposed extra debates in July and August.

Zoom in: The campaigns have agreed to debate with no audience, but they're still negotiating on how to handle cutting off microphones.

  • The Trump and Biden campaigns recently held back-channel conversations about cutting the commission out of the process, the Washington Post reports.

The bottom line: RFK Jr. had a real chance at making the presidential debate stage for the traditional fall debates, but could be cut out by the moved-up timelines of the new contests.

  • CNN's rules say a candidate needs four polls at 15% and they have to be on the ballot in enough states to secure 270 electoral votes.
  • Kennedy recently scored one poll at 16%, CNN's Harry Enten pointed out earlier this week.
  • Kennedy is on the ballot in four states, with ongoing efforts in 38 more.

Subscribe for more Axios Sneak Peek Thought Bubble in your inbox.

Read the full edition