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Presidential debate locations and dates announced for general election

WASHINGTON — The Commission on Presidential Debates announced Monday the dates and locations of three presidential debates for the 2024 general election.

The first debate is scheduled for Sept. 16 at Texas State University in San Marcos, followed by Oct. 1 at Virginia State University in Petersburg and Oct. 9 at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

The lone vice presidential debate will take place at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, on Sept. 25.

“The United States’ general election debates, watched live worldwide, are a model for many other countries: the opportunity to hear and see leading candidates address serious issues in a fair and neutral setting,” said commission co-chairs Frank Fahrenkopf and Antonia Hernández in a statement accompanying the announcement. “This tradition remains unbroken since 1976.”

The Biden campaign declined to comment on the announcement.

Kate Bedingfield, a former White House communications director and Biden 2020 deputy campaign manager, discussed the 2024 campaign’s non-committal position, saying it’s “a good strategic decision to know who your opponent will be before you commit to debating them.”

“We know that the RNC has already pulled out of the general election debates and, of course, Trump isn’t currently debating in the primaries,” she told NBC News. “The Biden campaign doesn’t need to lock themselves into a process yet when there are this many unknowns — and the only thing we do know is that his potential opponent lies with abandon on a debate stage. They can wait and make a strategic decision when more comes into focus.”

Another source familiar with the Biden team’s thinking pointed to issues with the 2020 debates that the campaign would likely want to discuss with the commission heading into 2024, including if and how moderators would fact check the candidates, as well as assurances the commission can provide that there would not be a repeat of the first 2020 debate, where stringent Covid safety rules did not appear to be fully enforced.

Asked for comment on the commission’s announcement, Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung said, “President Trump has already addressed this in multiple interviews this past year.”

The former president, who’s leading his opponents in the polls for the GOP nomination, has opted to skip every primary debate so far this election cycle. He has previously bashed the Commission on Presidential Debates, claiming the panel is “very biased” and “stacked with Trump Haters & Never Trumpers.”

The commission is a nonpartisan group that organizes debates to “afford the members of the public an opportunity to sharpen their views, in a focused debate format, of those candidates from among whom the next President and Vice President will be selected,” according to its website.

In 2022, the Republican National Committee voted to require that GOP presidential candidates not participate in debates organized by the commission. In a statement last year on the decision, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel called the commission “biased,” arguing that the group “has refused to enact simple and commonsense reforms to help ensure fair debates including hosting debates before voting begins and selecting moderators who have never worked for candidates on the debate stage.”

The RNC did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

In order to participate in a debate organized by the commission, candidates must be constitutionally eligible to serve as president, qualify to have their name appear on enough state ballots to have the possibility of winning the Electoral College, and have at least 15% of the electorate supporting their campaign, as measured by polling organizations selected by the commission.

The commission said it would announce additional details about the debates, including the format and moderators, next year.

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