US President Donald Trump (left) and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. [Photo/Agencies]
WASHINGTON-The final debate between US President Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden will feature a mute button to allow each candidate to speak uninterrupted, organizers said on Monday, looking to avoid the disruptions that marred the first matchup.
The Trump campaign voiced objections to the change-made after the president repeatedly talked over both Biden and the moderator at last month’s debate in violation of its agreed-upon rules-but said the Republican would still take part in the Thursday night event, one of his last chances to reach a large prime-time audience before voting ends on Nov 3.
The US Presidential Commission on Debates said each candidate’s microphone at the debate in Nashville, Tennessee, would be silenced to allow the other to make two minutes of opening remarks at the beginning of each 15-minute segment of the debate. Both microphones will be turned on to allow a back-and-forth after that time.
“President Trump is committed to debating Joe Biden regardless of last-minute rule changes from the biased commission in their latest attempt to provide advantage to their favored candidate,” campaign manager Bill Stepien said.
More than 30 million voters in the United States have already cast their ballots, limiting Trump’s chances of reframing a contest that national and state opinion polls show him trailing.
Trump repeatedly interrupted Biden during a chaotic and ill-tempered debate on Sept 29, at one point provoking Biden to snap: “Will you shut up, man?”
Trump backed out of a second scheduled debate set for Oct 15 over a disagreement about the virtual format following his COVID-19 infection. At that time, he raised concerns about having his microphone muted.
“You sit behind a computer and do a debate-it’s ridiculous, and then they cut you off whenever they want,” Trump said in an Oct 8 interview on the Fox Business news TV network.
Earlier on Monday, Trump’s campaign said it was unhappy with the announced set of topics for Thursday’s debate, arguing that it should focus more on foreign policy and asserting the nonpartisan group was tilted toward Biden.
“I will participate but it’s very unfair that they changed the topics and it’s very unfair that again we have an anchor who’s totally biased,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One as he returned to Washington from rallies in Arizona.
Kristen Welker of NBC News, a White House reporter, is slated to anchor the debate.
Stewardship of pandemic
Biden’s campaign said both sides previously agreed to let moderators choose the subjects. It said Trump wanted to avoid discussing his stewardship of the coronavirus pandemic, which surveys show is the top issue for voters.
“As usual, the president is more concerned with the rules of a debate than he is getting a nation in crisis the help it needs,” Biden spokesman T J Ducklo said.
The number of people who voted early reached 30.2 million on Monday, according to the University of Florida’s United States Elections Project. That number represents more than one-fifth of all the votes cast in the 2016 presidential election.
Early voting is likely to ramp up this week as more states open up voting centers for those who want to avoid possible coronavirus exposure at crowded election day polling sites.
In Florida, where more than 2.5 million have voted by mail, residents lined up for the first day of early in-person voting. A Reuters/Ipsos poll released last week showed Trump and Biden effectively tied in the state, which is seen as a must-win for the president.
Agencies – Xinhua