By Maggie Astor
The Commission on Presidential Debates on Monday announced the dates and locations of three presidential debates to be held during the general election campaign next year, as well as one vice presidential debate.
The presidential debates are scheduled for Sept. 16 at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas; Oct. 1 at Virginia State University in Petersburg, Virginia; and Oct. 9 at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. The vice presidential debate is scheduled for Sept. 25 at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania.
The moderators and formats for each debate are not expected to be announced until next year, but the events are scheduled to run for 90 minutes with no commercial breaks.
The commission, which receives no funding from the government or political parties, has sponsored all general election presidential and vice presidential debates since the 1988 election.
“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,” the commission’s leaders, Frank Fahrenkopf and Antonia Hernández, said in a statement.
To be eligible to participate in the debates, candidates will be required to have at least 15% support in national polls. In most elections, that means only the Democratic and Republican nominees are onstage, but it is not out of the question that a third-party candidate like Robert F. Kennedy Jr. could qualify this cycle given voters’ deep dissatisfaction with the major-party choices.
It remains to be seen whether former President Donald Trump, who has refused to attend the Republican primary debates, will agree to participate in the general election debates if, as appears likely, he is his party’s nominee. The Republican National Committee cut ties with the Commission on Presidential Debates last year after accusing it of bias, but it will ultimately be up to the nominee to decide whether to take part.
It is also unclear whether Biden will be interested in participating. His team has not committed to debating Trump, who could be convicted of felonies before the events begin. And the Biden campaign is still upset with the commission over what it sees as lax enforcement of COVID protocols at the first debate in 2020, soon after which Trump was diagnosed with the virus.
A spokesperson for Biden declined to comment Monday, and a spokesperson for Trump did not comment on the record.