As questions about Trump’s health continue to swirl about how long he will remain infectious with COVID-19, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced that the second debate scheduled for October 15 between Biden and Trump would be held virtually with Trump and Biden in separate locations. This decision was made “in order to protect the health and safety of all involved with the second presidential debate,” the commission said.
This decision came after Trump tested positive for the coronavirus and was hospitalized for three days. The pandemic has been a challenge for the debate commission, especially since the White House has refused to say when Trump last tested negative for the coronavirus. The repeated refusal to answer that question has suggested that Trump did not receive a negative test before the debate with Biden last week.
Since his disastrous debate performance, Mr. Trump, who is trailing in the polls by double digits, quickly rejected the idea saying, “I’m not going to waste my time on a virtual debate. That’s not what debating is all about.”
Bill Stepien, Trump’s campaign manager, said there was no reason to hold the event virtually because the president “will have posted multiple negative tests prior to the debate.” He added, “We’ll pass on this sad excuse to bail out Joe Biden and do a rally instead.”
Public opinion surveys conducted after the first debate show voters were repelled by Trump’s demeanor as he repeatedly mocked and interrupted Biden.
With an already significant lead in polls, Biden has expanded by several percentage points since the first debate, which took place in Cleveland just over a week ago.
Biden accepted the idea of a virtual debate shortly after Trump turned it down. In a statement by the campaign
“Vice President Biden looks forward to speaking directly to the American people and comparing his plan for bringing the country together and building back better. With Donald Trump’s failed leadership on the coronavirus that has thrown the strong economy, he inherited into the worst downturn since the Great Depression.”
Normally, it is the trailing candidate who wants to debate the front runner. For the trailing candidate to turn down a chance to debate is highly unusual. Since contracting the Coronavirus, Mr. Trump’s decision making has been erratic.
Questions about whether the medications he is taking are affecting his ability to make rational decisions are still unanswered. A few days ago, he abruptly canceled stimulus talks with Democrats, causing a sharp decline in the stock market, then equally abruptly, he sought to restart the negotiations.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) publicly questioned whether the drugs Trump is taking, especially dexamethasone — a steroid that can cause irritability, mood swings, and trouble sleeping and give a false sense of extra energy — have impaired the president’s judgment. But Trump said that he’s feeling much better after his hospitalization but still taking dexamethasone, which is normally prescribed to COVID-19 patients with lung trouble. Was the president having difficulty breathing? The White House refused to answer.