With less than eight hours to go before the first presidential debate in Cleveland, the Trump and Biden campaigns are still sparring over the rules for the debate. If the spats are unresolved before the 9 p.m. start time, it sets the stage for each campaign to blame the other for any faults in their candidate’s performance.
The latest argument, which has played out primarily through leaks and statements to the press about negotiations over debate rules, started with a Fox News report that claimed Biden’s team requested a break every 30 minutes during the 90-minute debate and refused to submit to checks for electronic ear pieces. The ear piece concern likely arose after a viral tweet comparing Biden’s inner ear during a CNN town hall last week with other public speeches purported to show that he was secretly wearing a device in his ear. Ebony Bowden of the New York Post later reported that the Biden campaign had initially agreed to the ear checks several days ago but have since declined. Perhaps it’s just a hearing aid?
Biden campaign spokesperson Kate Bedingfield denied that her team ever asked for breaks but did not deny that they were declining ear checks, saying, ‘Of course he’s not wearing an earpiece and we never asked for breaks.’
She also took the opportunity to throw a shot back at the Trump campaign, claiming that they asked moderator Chris Wallace not to mention the number of deaths from the coronavirus, which is one of the key topics to be covered during the debate.
‘If we’re playing that game, then you know, the Trump team asked Chris Wallace not to mention the number of deaths from COVID once during the debate. You can consider that confirmed from the Biden campaign. See how easy that was to try to throw up a distraction?’ Bedingfield said.
The Trump campaign then denied that they ever asked Wallace not to bring up COVID-19 deaths and accused the Biden campaign of deflecting.
‘This is a lie and it never happened. The Biden campaign is trying to distract from the facts that he won’t submit to an inspection for earpieces, won’t take a drug test, and needs multiple breaks during the 90-minute debate,’ Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh told The Spectator. ‘This is the height of playing politics with a public health crisis, which Biden has been doing for eight months.’
The idea of taking a drug test prior to the debate was floated by President Trump, who suggested that if Biden was able to churn out a good performance it would be because he had ‘a shot in the ass’. Trump and the campaign have warned over the last week that Biden is a seasoned and talented debater, apparently preparing for the possibility that the candidate they’ve flagged as having cognitive decline might make it through 90 minutes on stage without any major gaffes or memory lapses.
The aggressive back-and-forth between the campaigns so close to the debate could spill over on to the debate stage — Trump, certainly, has no problem straying from questions of policy.
Biden, however, has reportedly been told by advisers to avoid personal attacks against the President. If it’s boring, he wins.