Trump and Biden plan to skip October presidential debate in Utah

May 15, 2024, 1:29 PM | Updated: 6:42 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — A planned presidential debate in October at the University of Utah is in serious jeopardy of officially being called off after President Joe Biden and former President Trump scheduled their own slate of debates in June and September.

“(The Commission on Presidential Debates has) not called to tell us that it’s off and I’ve talked to them the moment this came out this morning,” said Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics, who said he found out about the decision via media reports.

“I read it in the paper. I saw the post myself. And so I immediately started calling the Commission on Presidential Debates, people here in the state of Utah to get more information,” he said.

Perry said the commission is working to contact the campaigns to figure out what to do, but ultimately, this is a campaign and candidate candidate decision.

“They’ve already identified the dates. They’ve not identified a location. It’s not clear right now if they are not going to do any of the other debates that have already been put on the schedule. (Canceling) is certainly a possibility, which we are sad about,” he said. “We’re going to keep plugging away with these officials, the campaigns and the Commission on Presidential Debates, because we still want to have it here,” he said.

Biden and Trump agreed to hold two campaign debates, on June 27, hosted by CNN, and on Sept. 10, hosted by ABC. CNN says its debate will be held in its Atlanta studios, and “no audience will be present.”

Biden and Trump agree on debates on June 27 and in September, but details could be challenging

According to the Associated Press, the two sides appeared to hold significant differences on key questions of how to organize the debates, including agreeing on media partners, moderators, location and rules — some of the very questions that prompted the formation of the Commission on Presidential Debates in 1987.

Biden’s proposal would exclude third-party candidates, such as Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

According to Perry, the university will lose money on the deal if a debate doesn’t happen, but not taxpayer money.

The legislature allocated $2.5 million to upgrades needed for security to host a debate, but it’s in a fund that only gets spent with approval from the Executive Appropriations Committee.

“No money has been drawn down from that appropriation from the state of Utah. And if there’s not a debate, that’s where it will sit,” Perry said.

But the U of U, he said, could be out money for things they’ve already purchased. According to Perry, the university has already spent more than $2.5 million.

“We have committees that I’ve been working things from the infrastructure, the IT, the security, the programming that will happen on campus,” Perry said.

Ultimately, Perry said he’s hopeful a debate can still happen.

“We’ve been operating as if it’s going to happen. I still hope there’s a possibility, but there’s there’s still a little bit of work to do.”

Utah’s primary debates will begin June 10.

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Trump and Biden plan to skip October presidential debate in Utah