President Trump’s campaign manager said Monday that he wants “more debates” between the president and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden — and he wants them to begin sooner rather than later.
In an interview with Fox News’s “Fox & Friends,” Bill Stepien voiced concern that the current debate schedule, which begins on Sept. 29, won’t give early voters in several states a chance to see the two candidates go head-to-head before ballots are cast.
“We want more debates. We want debates starting sooner,” Stepien, who was named Trump’s new campaign manager last month, said. “First debate is scheduled for Sept. 29, by that time 16 states already will have voted, by Sept. 29. That’s a concern to me. I want to see President Trump on the debate stage against Joe Biden.”
The Commission on Presidential Debates has scheduled four debates so far: three between Trump and Biden and one between Vice President Pence and whoever emerges as Biden’s running mate.
The Trump campaign has sought to up the number of debates, believing potentially embarrassing or damaging gaffes are more likely the more Biden appears on stage. Biden’s team has largely rejected those efforts, accusing Trump of trying to distract from his handling of multiple national crises, including the coronavirus pandemic and civil unrest over racial injustice.
A handful of states are slated to begin voting before the first scheduled debate on Sept. 29. In North Carolina, Florida, Pennsylvania and Michigan, for instance, officials will start mailing out absentee ballots before the end of September.
An expected increase in mail-in voting this year due to the pandemic also means that many voters will cast their ballots well before Election Day, giving Trump a shorter time frame to try to reverse his political fortunes. Biden currently leads Trump in polling of several swing states the president carried in 2016, as well as recent national surveys.
Stepien on Monday accused Democrats of seeking to limit the number of debates to avoid putting Biden in the spotlight before voting begins.
“We’re already seeing the liberal left, the liberal media trying to create trap doors for Joe Biden to escape his commitment and obligations to debate Donald Trump on a debate stage in front of the American people,” he said. “We want more debates.”
–This report was updated on Aug. 4 at 6:15 a.m.