Why Biden flipped the debate, Trump agreed, and the risks for each side

Candidates debate when they should debate.

That's why Donald Trump didn't do that during the primaries.

That's why Joe Biden, battling abysmal poll numbers, surprised everyone yesterday by agreeing to two debates.

And why Trump, who demanded a side-by-side comparison — he even debated on my show — immediately accepted it.

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Former President Donald Trump and President Biden have agreed to debate. (Getty Images)

With speed that raised questions about whether there was “manipulation,” both camps agreed within a few hours to hold the showdowns on CNN on June 27 and on ABC September 10. (Four networks were considered.) CNN has already done that. have announced Jake Tapper and Dana Bash as moderators.

While key details remain to be worked out, Trump appears to have agreed to two key Biden conditions. And this is not a man who likes others dictating the rules.

First, Biden doesn't want an audience. He doesn't want Trump, who draws huge crowds at rallies and incites his supporters to boo and jeer. (Trump said he wanted big stages for “excitement.”) The president wants a calm debate focused on policy.

Second, Biden wants a mute button. That is, when one candidate speaks for the allotted 60 or 30 seconds, the other's microphone is turned off. This is to avoid a repeat of their first debate in 2020, when Trump continuously interrupted or talked over Biden and moderator Chris Wallace. The former president cannot be happy about that.

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This all became public at 8am yesterday morning, when Biden posted a short and snarky video:

'Now he's acting like he wants to debate me again. Well, make my day, buddy.”

The man is not a very convincing Clint Eastwood, by the way.

'I even do it twice. So let's pick the dates. Donald. I heard you're free on Wednesdays.' (The joke, in case you were wondering, is that the hush money trial isn't happening on Wednesday — like it was yesterday, when Biden's message would actually get attention.)

Trump Biden debate

Then-Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden answers a question and then-President Donald Trump listens during the second and final presidential debate on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash, Swimming Pool)

Trump responded to Truth Social that although “Crooked Joe Biden is the WORST debater I have ever experienced” and “can't put two sentences together,” he accepts.

It is difficult to overestimate the importance of these two events. More than any debate since Ronald Reagan told Jimmy Carter in 1980, “There you go again,” the election could decide.

Biden was on track to lose the election. He is shielded and barely making news, even before Trump's hush money trial began. His team must recognize this too late. Joe had to do something to shake things up.

The Biden camp believes his superior knowledge will become apparent in simple debates. There is also a belief that the more the public sees Trump, locked up in a Manhattan courthouse, the better it is for the president.

On the other hand, Trump's sheer physical presence and bombastic style will contrast favorably with Biden's older countenance and thin voice (though only three and a half years separate them).

And believe me, as someone who has spent an hour-long interview with Donald, he can focus and exercise discipline when he wants to.

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This likely sounds the death knell for the Commission on Presidential Debates, which has handled the fall events since 1988. It has become a kind of dinosaur, locked in three October debates (after the start of voting) with a loud audience. Furthermore, the moderators, chosen from the usual suspects (except for the late great Jim Lehrer), were often distrusted. So both candidates are abandoning the bipartisan panel.

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There are already rumors that Trump might find reasons to withdraw, but I don't see that happening. And I didn't think his opponent would engage.

But Biden's calculation is that he had to roll the dice. We'll know soon enough if his gamble pays off.

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