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This combination of pictures created on September 29, 2020 shows Democratic Presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden (L) and US President Donald Trump speaking during the first presidential debate at the Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio on September 29. | Photo by Jim Watson, Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The next debate is looking more uncertain, due to Trump’s Covid-19 diagnosis.

With President Donald Trump’s recent Covid-19 diagnosis, the next presidential debate is looking a lot less certain.

After a chaotic first debate that left Trump lagging in the polls, the president and Democratic nominee Joe Biden are scheduled, at least for now, to debate each other on Thursday, October 15. The debate is to be moderated by CSPAN political editor Steve Scully.

The debate is scheduled to air live on ABC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, Fox, and NBC from 9 to 10:30 pm ET, and will be held at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami. (That’s 8-9:30 pm CT, 7-8:30 pm MT, and 6-7:30 pm PT.) As in previous debates, organizers from the Commission for Presidential Debates have secured the Cleveland Clinic as a health adviser to try to ensure that the debates can continue safely amid the pandemic.

Still, much has changed since the first debate on September 29. Most importantly, Trump is in isolation in the White House after testing positive for Covid-19 on October 2. Trump has been treated with a number of cutting-edge therapies for the deadly airborne coronavirus, but Biden has said he is hesitant to appear onstage with Trump because he could still be contagious on the day of the debate.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people who have Covid-19 stay away from others for at least 10 days following the appearance of symptoms, and notes that patients who — like Trump — were hospitalized and needed oxygen may be wise to self-isolate for at least 20 days. The debate date would seem to fall after the 10-day window, but before the 20-day mark, based on what is publicly known about the onset of the president’s symptoms.

“I think if he still has Covid, we shouldn’t have a debate,” Biden told reporters Tuesday after delivering a speech in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. “I think we were gonna have to follow very strict guidelines. Too many people have been infected. It’s a very serious problem, so I will be guided by the guidelines of the Cleveland Clinic and what the docs say is the right thing to do.”

Even though Trump is still being treated for Covid-19, he has so far seemed eager to debate, tweeting, “I am looking forward to the debate on the evening of Thursday, October 15th in Miami. It will be great!”

The decision will ultimately be up to the Commission for Presidential Debates and the Cleveland Clinic, which is partnering with the commission to keep the debates safe. Their ability to do so was called into question during the first debate, during which Trump’s entire family declined to wear face masks throughout the proceedings. The city of Cleveland reported at least 11 people became infected, and city officials said the cases originated from the pre-debate planning and set-up.

Covid-19 testing for Trump and Biden was up to the campaigns before the September 29 debate, and it’s not clear when Trump’s last negative test was.

There’s still one more presidential debate scheduled after Miami

There will one more presidential debates on October 22 in Nashville, Tennessee. NBC anchor Kristen Welker has been selected to moderate that event.

With just weeks to go before the November 3 election, Biden’s advantage in the polls has only increased since the first debate and Trump’s Covid-19 diagnosis. His national polling average on FiveThirtyEight rose from 7 percentage points last week to 9 percentage points as of Tuesday.

Biden is carrying a somewhat narrower lead in critical swing states, including Michigan, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Arizona, according to RealClearPolitics averages. Several polls after the first debate showed that voters did not like Trump’s constant interruptions of Biden during the first debate.

Polling also seems to suggest the first debate solidified two worrying trends for the president, the movement of older voters and suburban women away from Trump and towards Biden. A recent CNN poll showed Biden winning older voters by 22 percentage points, and a post debate poll from NBC and the Wall Street Journal found the Democrat leading the president by 25 percentage points among suburban women.

It remains to be seen how much — or little — the Thursday night debate, and the final one on October 22, will shift those numbers.


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Author: Ella Nilsen

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