Thu. Apr 25th, 2024

Trump taunts Biden with an empty debate lectern at his Wisconsin rally

By 37ci3 Apr2,2024

GREEN BAY, Wis. – Former President Donald Trump On Tuesday, he made a flamboyant call for one-on-one talks with the president Joe BidenHe placed an empty chair on the stage before the rally here to represent where Biden might stand.

The visual aid, a staple of down-ballot candidates seeking to force reluctant opponents into the debate, underscored Trump’s charge that Biden was afraid to meet him one-on-one. But it also signaled the very real possibility that a presidential election could go ahead without at least one televised debate for the first time in generations. And by implication, he rules out a candidate who has caused confusion for the presumptive nominees of both major parties: independent Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

“If RFK Jr. takes the debate stage, Democrats and Republicans better brace themselves,” said Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis. “Introducing a third candidate when you’re running against two highly disadvantaged candidates creates a lot of dangerous scenarios.”

Until Tuesday, there was little public discussion of the debate as Trump and Biden locked up enough delegates to win their party’s nomination last month. In a typical post on Truth Social in March, Trump wrote that he would debate Biden “anytime, anywhere, anywhere — a thought repeated in front of an empty pew at Tuesday’s rally.

Empty seats on stage at the Hyatt Regency in Green Bay, Wisc., before a campaign event on April 2, 2024.
Empty seats on stage at the Hyatt Regency in Green Bay, Wisc., before a campaign event Tuesday. NBC News

But his campaign avoided answering questions about why it was so eager to take the stage with Biden after skipping the Republican primary debates this election. In 2022, the Republican National Committee cut ties with the venerable nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates, citing bias during Trump’s 2020 election loss.

Biden He responded to Trump’s earlier call for a debate saying “it depends on your behavior”. In February, He said about Trump: “If I were him, I’d like him to argue with me, too. He has nothing else to do.”

But Biden aides say the campaign won’t make a decision until later this year. In a statement to NBC News last week, Biden campaign spokeswoman Lauren Hitt questioned Trump’s sincerity.

“Donald Trump is out of the Commission on Presidential Debates, so he’s only talking about the debates now because he’s trying to shift the conversation away from his financial and legal problems,” Hitt said, pointing to Trump’s poorer campaign coffers and the four criminal trials he faces. “There is only one candidate in this election who is running to serve the American people and strengthen our democracy, and that is Joe Biden.”

Officials with the Commission on Presidential Debates, which traditionally selects the venues and negotiates rules for campaigns, did not respond to inquiries from NBC News about the forums planned this year. Similarly, several members of the organization’s board individually declined or did not respond to interview requests.

There are many reasons for all the finger tips, but one is bigger than the rest: Kennedy.

Asked about Kennedy last week, Trump’s campaign spokeswoman Danielle Alvarez said the former president’s focus is on taking the stage with Biden, whom he has twice debated in 2020.

“President Trump is more accessible to the American people than Broken Biden, whose staff won’t allow him to be interviewed or answer questions because they fear his failed presidency, disastrous policies and cognitive decline,” Alvarez said.

Biden’s campaign declined to say whether it would welcome Kennedy’s inclusion if President Trump decided to discuss it.

The namesake son of the former New York senator and US attorney general, who was assassinated on the eve of the 1968 presidential election, has attracted nervous attention in national polls and from both Democrats and Republicans.

The Democratic National Committee recently hired veteran operative Lees Smith help against third-party candidates. Last week, Trump went after Kennedy.

“RFK Jr. is the most Radical Left Candidate ever in the race,” Trump wrote on Truth Social, attacking Kennedy for supporting progressive environmental policies. Trump described Kennedy as a force to take votes from Biden – “I love that he’s running!” But the decision to go on a crime spree is somewhat troubling.

A spokesman for Kennedy did not respond to a request for comment.

A vocal voice of the anti-vaccine movement, whose agenda is hard to pin down in conventional political terms, Kennedy welcomed its inclusion in the national discourse. On Monday, he echoed Trump, accusing Biden, who has made upholding democratic values ​​central to his campaign, of endangering those ideals.

Kennedy said: “I would argue that President Biden is a worse threat to democracy than Trump.” In an interview with CNN. “That’s because President Biden is the first candidate in history, the first president in history to use federal agencies to censor political speech … to censor his opponent.”

Kennedy seemed to mean a case before the Supreme Court on the level of communication between government officials and social media companies regarding the removal of content. His campaign has not made it clear what work he is aiming for.

The debate commission announced late last year that it had selected dates and locations for three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate at Texas State University, Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, Virginia State University and the University of Utah.

To qualify under the commission’s rules, Kennedy had to qualify on the ballot in states with at least 270 electoral votes combined and register with 15 percent or more in five national polls.

GOP strategist Brad Todd said there is “zero chance” the commission will host a debate this year or in the near future because Republicans don’t trust commission members to represent the candidates’ interests.

Regardless of which body has the authority to sanction the debates — or if the campaigns simply come together to create their own rules — they are important forums for the public, especially this year, he said.

“The presidential debates are really important because you’re dealing with such a small group of people who are undecided,” many of them find fault with the candidates of both major parties. “It is he who decides this year’s elections.”

Neither major party candidate has agreed on anything, and aides to both Biden and Trump say they believe the other candidate will eventually decline a face-to-face meeting.

If voters see one candidate trying to end the televised debate tradition that dates back to the 1960 race between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy (RFK Jr.’s uncle), Kofinis says, it could be politically costly. .

“It would be a catastrophic mistake for anyone who proposed it in the first place or walked away from it,” Kofinis said of a possible no-discussion election. “There’s a general expectation that if you’re running for president, you’re going to hold a debate so that the American public can evaluate the candidates side by side or three candidates side by side.”

Jonathan Allen reported from Washington, D.C., and Matt Dixon reported from Green Bay, Wisconsin.

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