Debate Details Emerging that Take Into Account Biden’s Age and Infirmities

The Biden and Trump campaigns have put the finishing touches on their debate on June 27th. We already knew that Jake Tapper and Dana Bash would moderate. Now the two sides have agreed to several ground rules.

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1. There will be two commercial breaks instead of one. No interaction with campaign staff will be allowed. Will they allow a bathroom break?

2. Mics will be muted when it’s not the candidate’s turn.

3. “Both candidates agreed to appear at a uniform podium, and their podium positions will be determined by a coin flip,” according to CNN.

4. No audience will be present.

5. No opening statements.

6. The moderators “will use all tools at their disposal to enforce timing and ensure a civilized discussion,” according to the network. That means no talking over the other guy.

7. There will be a “spin room.” Gavin Newsom will be available for Biden. Trump has yet to choose anyone to represent him in the mosh pit

Biden is going to sequester himself for a week prior to the debate, ostensibly to prep intensively. By way of contrast, Trump says he’s going to “wing it.”

 “Mr. Trump has long preferred looser conversations, batting around themes, ideas and one-liners more informally among advisers,” says the New York Times. Trump held an initial practice debate at RNC headquarters while in Washington this week. “Mr. Trump has never consented to anything resembling traditional, rigorous debate preparation, and this election appears no exception. He has often said that he is at his best when improvising.” So, no, no one will be playing Biden at a mock debate.

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Frank Fahrenkopf, former chairman of the Republican Party, is now the co-chair of the Commission on Presidential Debates. He thinks the setup is “not that bad.”

“By and large what they have laid out is not that bad. On balance they have emulated us,” Fahrenkopf told Playbook this morning. “But that part is very, very different.”

What’s also going to be different is the barely concealed hate that exists between the two men.

The unusually deep personal animosity between the two men is both an X factor for the debate and a key consideration for their strategies. The Trump campaign thinks a winning approach is exposing Biden being Biden; the Biden campaign sees a winning debate as letting Trump be Trump.

Both men will be rusty. Neither has debated since their last clash in 2020, the longest drought since general-election debates became a regular part of American campaigns in 1976.

For Mr. Biden, the preparation process will be overseen by Ron Klain, his first White House chief of staff, who filled the same role for his 2020 debates and his 2012 vice-presidential debate. Mr. Klain compiles what topics are likely to come up and what prospective answers could be, according to people who have been involved in past planning sessions.

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With the inability to interrupt the other, there probably won’t be a lot of fireworks. But given how much they hate each other, you have to wonder if they’re even going to shake hands before the debate. 

Other than that, I’m going to be watching the expressions on both their faces. Daggers and arrows, man. Daggers and arrows.

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