Biden Offers to Debate Trump, With Terms, Shunning the Debate Commission

President Biden is willing to debate former President Donald J. Trump at least twice before the election, and as early as June — but his campaign is rejecting the nonpartisan organization that has managed presidential debates since 1988, according to a letter obtained by The New York Times.

The letter by the Biden campaign lays out for the first time the president’s terms for giving Mr. Trump what he has openly clamored for: a televised confrontation with a successor Mr. Trump has portrayed, and hopes to reveal, as too feeble to hold the job.

Mr. Biden and his top aides want the debates to start much sooner than the dates proposed by the Commission on Presidential Debates, so voters can see the two candidates side by side well before early voting begins in September. They want the debate to occur inside a TV studio, with microphones that automatically cut off when a speaker’s time limit elapses. And they want it to be just the two candidates and the moderator — without the raucous in-person audiences that Mr. Trump feeds on and without the participation of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. or other independent or third-party candidates.

The proposal suggests that Mr. Biden is willing to take some calculated risks to reverse his fortunes in a race in which most battleground-state polls show the president trailing Mr. Trump and struggling to persuade voters that he’s an effective leader and steward of the economy.

It is the first formal offer by the Biden campaign for debates with Mr. Trump, who has declared repeatedly that he will debate his successor “anytime and anywhere,” and has demanded as many debates as possible. Mr. Biden recently indicated he would debate Mr. Trump, but had until now declined to give any firm commitment or specific details.

The letter, signed by Mr. Biden’s campaign chair, Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, and addressed to the Commission on Presidential Debates, notifies the group that Mr. Biden will not be participating in the three general-election debates sponsored by the commission, which are scheduled for Sept. 16, Oct. 1 and Oct. 9.

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