Commission Sets Dates, Locations For Presidential Debates Next Fall

The Commission on Presidential Debates has scheduled three presidential debates next fall with a slightly earlier timeline.

The three debates are now scheduled for Sept. 16 at Texas State University in San Marcos, TX; Oct. 1 at Virginia State University in Petersburg, VA; and Oct. 9 at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

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A vice presidential debate has been scheduled on Sept. 25 at Lafayette College in Easton, PA.

The debates will start at 9 p.m. ET and will run for 90 minutes.

What is unclear is participation.

The commission has been in a battle with the Republican National Committee over the debate schedule and format. Last year, the RNC withdrew from the commission, which has organized the general election debates since 1987. The RNC complained that the commission was “biased” and asked for a series of changes. Still, candidates decide themselves whether to participate, and there is nothing that prevents some alternative effort to organize a debate.

Donald Trump attacked the general election debates and its moderators, and refused to participate in the second event scheduled in the 2020 cycle after the commission decided to make it virtual after he was treated for Covid. He did participate in a final debate during the cycle.

The commission also has moved up the timeline for the debates. The first debate in 2020 was on Sept. 29; the next cycle it will be two weeks earlier. The RNC had pressed the commission to move up the timeline due to the prevalence of early voting.

The commission also set a 15% threshold in a series of national polls to qualify. Most cycles, that has meant that only the major party nominees have participated. Ross Perot was the last non-Democratic or Republican candidate to participate in a major presidential debate, when he was on stage with President George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton in 1992.

The primary debates are organized by the party in conjunction with a host network. But for decades now, the general election debates have been set by the bipartisan commission and aired across broadcast, cable and streaming networks.

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