The non-partisan Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) announced changes to the debate rules ahead of the next and final presidential debate, which will take place on Thursday 22 October.
Under the new rules, President Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will each have two minutes of uninterrupted time to speak at the beginning of every 15-minute segment of the debate, while the other’s microphone will be turned off.
“The only candidate whose microphone will be open during these two-minute periods is the candidate who has the floor under the rules,” the commission announced. After those two minutes, there will be time for discussion with both candidates’ microphones open.
The obvious decision comes after a chaotic first presidential debate that saw significant interruptions from both major party candidates, although primarily from Trump. The debate, which took place on 29 September and was moderated by Fox News’ Chris Wallace, was widely criticised for its lack of structure.
Muting the candidates’ microphones, even for two minutes, is an effort to allow Trump and Biden more equitable time to answer questions in the final presidential debate. In response to this new rule, which was revealed on Monday 19 October, Trump has already complained that a rule change to mute microphones for part of his final televised debate with Joe Biden is “very unfair,” while also objecting to the topics chosen by the moderator.
However, the Trump campaign said the Republican would still take part in the Thursday night event, one of Trump’s last chances to reach a large prime-time audience before voting ends on 3 November.
Trump and Biden had been scheduled for a debate last week, which was then cancelled after Trump had been hospitalised days after the first debate and prior to the next one. Republicans were very critical of the CPD for cancelling the second debate although Trump had been diagnosed with COVID-19.
Let’s just hope this last debate lives up to its name. And, if either candidate doesn’t seem to respect the rules, you know what will happen—they’ll just get muted.