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Photos: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

In a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates Monday, Joe Biden's campaign manager said that Biden will agree to the commission's proposal of three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate with independent moderators, adding, "Donald Trump and Mike Pence should do the same."

The big picture: Trump's campaign has been calling for four debates and for them to be held sooner because of early voting. Trump has also accused the bipartisan nonprofit organization of being "very biased."

  • The Biden campaign has laid out a specific position on how they plan to follow through with the debates.
  • Biden says he will participate in the commission's debates on Sept. 29, Oct. 15 and Oct. 22. Biden's running mate will participate in the vice presidential candidates’ debate set for Oct. 7.

What they're saying:

"Now that Donald Trump is trailing so badly in the polls, and is desperate to change the subject from his failed leadership of the country, we are seeing reports that he has his own proposal for debates — after having said, just six months ago, that he might not want to participate at all in planned dates.
No one should be fooled: the Trump campaign’s new position is a debate distraction. The Trump position seems to be saying that he will debate if he can pick the moderators: clearly the President, who largely conducts interviews only with favorable news outlets, is afraid of facing questions from a neutral moderator. The Trump campaign proposal for elaborate negotiations is merely an effort to dodge fair, even-handed debates."
— Biden campaign manager Jen O'Malley Dillon

Between the lines: In a general election season that's shaping up to have far fewer traditional rallies and less traditional candidate engagement than normal, the debates may take on heightened importance and will give Americans a chance to see the incumbent and the former vice president in sharp contrast to one another.

  • There also may be less of a surprise factor for Biden than for Hillary Clinton; Trump in 2016 showed his penchant for using the theater of the debate stage and pre-debate events in unconventional and sometimes controversial ways.

Read the letter.

Go deeper: Pennsylvania swing voters tire of Trump's inability to heal the country

Go deeper

How Trump, Biden plan to score at Tuesday's debate

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Trump has been practicing with flashcards and prepping with former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie before Tuesday's presidential debate.

Behind the scenes: Top aides tell Axios he's been testing his attacks on the campaign trail for weeks, seeing what ignites his crowds or falls flat. One of the biggest themes Trump plans to drive home is his "tough guy" persona, which advisers see as an advantage with voters in key states.

What to watch in tonight's debate

Joe Biden (left) and President Trump (right) are facing off in Cleveland for the first presidential debate. Photos: Alex Wong (of Biden) and David Hume Kennerly (of Trump)/Getty Images

President Trump will try to break Joe Biden's composure by going after his son Hunter and other family members in tonight's first presidential debate — a campaign source tells Axios "nothing will be off the table" — while Biden plans to stick to the economy, coronavirus and new revelations about how Trump avoided paying taxes.

Driving the news: Biden and Trump are set to debate at 9pm ET at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, and it will be moderated by Fox News' Chris Wallace.

Sep 29, 2020 - Economy & Business

Women historically not assigned to moderate first presidential debate slot

Data: Commission on Presidential Debates/Axios Research; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Women have historically not been awarded the first debate moderator slot, even though more women have been selected to moderate debates in recent history.

The state of play: The one exception is Barbara Walters of ABC News, who moderated the first presidential debate in 1984 between Republican President Ronald Reagan and Democratic former Vice President Walter Mondale.