President Trump’s reelection campaign is pushing for a general election debate with former Vice President Joe Biden before millions of voters begin casting their ballots in early September.
Trump's campaign sent a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates on Wednesday making the request, saying if another debate isn't added, then the last of the three currently scheduled should be pushed up on the calendar.
The debates, currently slated between Sept. 29 and Oct. 22, will happen after a crush of early voting begins, leaving voters without an opportunity to see Trump and Biden in a head-to-head match-up, former New York City Mayor and campaign representative Rudy Giuliani argued in the letter.
The campaign wants the third debate to be moved to early September, before the first ballots are sent on Sept. 4 in North Carolina.
“For a nation already deprived of a traditional campaign schedule because of the COVID-19 global pandemic, it makes no sense to also deprive so many Americans of the opportunity to see and hear the two competing visions for our country’s future before millions of votes have been cast,” wrote Giuliani.
The campaign noted that 16 states will have started voting before the first debate, currently scheduled for Sept. 29, and that a total of 34 states will have early voting before the third and final debate is held on Oct. 22.
“Certainly former Vice President Biden would agree with the need to avoid having millions of Americans disenfranchised by not being able to see and hear the two major party candidates debate before they have ballots in-hand, and our suggestions for location and moderators shows a spirit of cooperation the Commission should be able to agree to,” Giuliani wrote.
The campaign also proposed a list of debate moderators, including many journalists from outlets friendly to the president, including Bret Baier of Fox News, David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network and conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. It also included hosts from networks the president has been critical of, including Norah O’Donnell of CBS News and Hoda Kotb of NBC News.
The Trump campaign suggested a “simple studio format with no audience” as a backup format in the case of concerns over the coronavirus pandemic at any of the determined debate locations.
The letter underscores the Trump campaign’s eagerness to set up a debate against Biden, who Republicans are hopeful will provide a damaging gaffe to help shake up the news cycle, which has focused on the president's handling of the pandemic amid a rising number of cases across the country.
A significant spike in early and mail-in voting is expected this year as voters try to avoid standing in long lines amid the pandemic, giving both campaign less of a runway to make a final impression before the first ballots are cast.
The Commission on Presidential Debates did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill about the letter.