The latest on the 2020 election

Julio Cortez/Patrick Semansky/AP
Julio Cortez/Patrick Semansky/AP

Dueling town hall events, with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on ABC and President Trump on NBC, could be on the air this Thursday, since the town hall-style debate between the two men is off.

As with almost everything involving Trump, though, his plans are subject to change.

Trump’s team is in talks with NBC about a town hall, according to multiple sources familiar with the planning. “Today” show co-host Savannah Guthrie would be the likely moderator. But the event is conditioned on the president testing negative for the coronavirus, the sources said.

The town hall will likely be in an outdoor setting in Miami, just like the one NBC recently hosted with Biden, the sources added.

So far there has been no announcement by NBC — a network where Trump used to work, but with a news division he routinely assails, whose parent company Comcast he calls “Concast” — or the campaign.

Biden’s plan is more concrete. He is set to participate in a town hall on ABC, moderated by George Stephanopoulos, Thursday at 8 p.m. ET.

Here’s what led up to this point: ABC and the Biden campaign announced the event on Oct. 8, the same hectic day that the debate commission shifted the long-scheduled debate to a “virtual” format, in light of Trump’s coronavirus illness.

Trump hastily said he would not attend, and his campaign aides lashed out at the Commission on Presidential Debates for changing the format without any consultation.

So the Biden camp called up ABC, which produced a town hall with Trump in September and had been wanting to do the same with Biden.

“He, Donald Trump, refused to participate in a virtual town hall so we instead scheduled a national network town hall so Joe Biden can take questions from voters,” Biden’s deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

The Trump campaign, which is lagging badly in the polls, maneuvered to get the debate back on the calendar and in-person. At one point the campaign proposed moving the two remaining debates back one week each, to Oct. 22 and 29.

But the bipartisan commission has not publicly entertained that proposal. And the Biden campaign has rejected it, with Bedingfield arguing that “we all agreed to these dates back in June, and we’re not going to let him try to rewrite the rules at the last second.”

On October 9, the commission called off the town hall debate. “Both candidates have agreed to participate in the October 22 debate,” the commission noted.

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