Bypassing the CPD: Networks Host Early Debates 

CNN Studios
Atlanta, GA
June 27, 2024
Moderators: Jake Tapper and Dana Bash
ABC News
Sept. 10, 2024
Moderators: David Muir and Linsey Davis
(ema May 15, updated June 27, 2024)  Circumventing the Commission on Presidential Debates, on May 15, 2024 the Biden campaign proposed that presidential debates be held in June and September, and former President Donald J. Trump accepted.  CNN promptly announced a debate between the two will occur on June 27, and ABC News followed, announcing a debate on Sept. 10.  The CPD, which has organized debates since 1988 and had planned three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate, has been boxed out.   

Before May 15, Biden and Trump had been engaging in a back-and-forth which led observers to wonder if any debates would occur.  On May 15, things happened very quickly.  Biden's campaign chair Jen O'Malley Dillon penned a letter [PDF] outlining the Biden campaign's debate proposal, and then most of the discussion unfolded on social media, starting with Biden's melodramatic "Make my day, pal" video. 

The vice presidential debate situation remains murky.  On May 16, CBS News announced the outlines of a vice presidential debate: "The Biden campaign has accepted CBS News' invitation to participate in a vice presidential debate.  The campaign says that either the proposed dates of July 23 or August 13 would be acceptable for Vice President Kamala Harris.  The Trump campaign has not yet publicly accepted the invitation and Donald Trump has not yet named a running mate."  Trump countered on May 17: "On behalf of the future Vice President of the United States, who I have not yet chosen, we hereby accept the Fox Vice Presidential Debate, hopefully at Virginia State University, the first Historically Black College or University to host a Debate - Date to be determined."

A June debate is unprecedented, occurring before the major party conventions. 
Additionally the June-September schedule, if adhered to, would mean no debates in the closing two months of the campaign.  The in-studio format rather than with a live audience and mic muting should create a different, possibly less charged dynamic.  There were concerns that having the debates broadcast by a individual networks could limit the viewing audience.  For the June 27 debate, CNN is making the debate feed available to other networks, but "with strings attached."

The Kennedy campaign made a strong effort to include the Independent candidate in the June 27 debate, and the Stein campaign also filed a complaint.  They and other Independent and third party candidates are being excluded but do have debate related events.  A broader field candidates will find access to the stage at Free & Equal Elections Foundation debates, the first of which is scheduled for July 12.

July 12, 2024
Las Vegas, NV
See also:
Open to Debate and Center for the Study of Democratic Politics at Princeton University.  "Discourse Correction: What’s Wrong with the Presidential Debates, and How to Fix Them."  June 20, 2024.

Democracy in Action: Past Debates

Commission on Presidential Debates

Free & Equal Elections Foundation

BBC Prime Ministerial Debate - In Britain which is holding a general election on July 4, 2024, the BBC hosted a 75-minute prime ministerial debate on June 26, one day before the CNN debate.