Donald Trump, as a candidate, and as a president has often been called “unpredictable” by many reporters and analysts. However, if you observe the President for long enough, such as for several years now, you can actually spot some predictable patterns. If there is one thing the President thrives on its controversy and chaos. During the 2016 cycle, Trump threatened similarly to skip the debates but ended up joining the events with Hillary Clinton because the other thing that Trump particularly enjoys is TV ratings. Presidential debates have some of the highest viewership outside of the Super Bowl, why wouldn’t Donald Trump partake in that?
We’re now at the point of the cycle where the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) has already announced the dates and venues of the 2020 general election debates between President Trump and the eventual Democratic nominee. There’s just one problem. The President is now calling the CPD “biased” and threatening to skip the events or demand more input on the debate details by essentially organizing his own:
President Donald Trump suggested on Monday that he could skip debates hosted by a commission he called biased, but said other options exist for facing off against the eventual Democratic nominee.
Trump said on Twitter that the Commission on Presidential Debates — which describes itself as nonpartisan — is “stacked with Trump Haters and Never Trumpers.” He referenced an incident during a 2016 debate in which there was a problem with his microphone.
The organization has scheduled three presidential debates for 2020, with the first one set for Sept. 29. In a statement Monday, the commission said, “Our record is one of fairness, balance and non-partisanship.”
Trump said he would “make a decision at the appropriate time but in the meantime, the Commission on Presidential Debates is NOT authorized to speak for me (or R’s!)”
Trump said he looked forward to debating the Democratic candidate and that there was the option of doing debates “directly.” But he gave no details on how that would work.
This is an issue we also touched in back in August noting that Donald Trump doesn’t actually like to debate and has no intention of debating any of his potential 2020 Republican rivals. He enjoys sniping at opponents on Twitter or having a rally where he and he alone is the center of attention. Sharing a stage with another politician and being forced to respond and debate minutia and facts isn’t his forte.
Back to the opening premise, that Trump can sometimes be predictable while appearing to be unpredictable. With his criticism of the CPD, it’s unlikely the President would try to organize his own debates or that his Democratic opponent would agree to it. That scenario, however, doesn’t stop him from making statements like this accusing the CPD of messing with his microphone audio:
“3 years ago they were forced to publicly apologize for modulating my microphone in the first debate against Crooked Hillary. As President, the debates are up … to me, and there are many options, including doing them directly & avoiding the nasty politics of this very biased Commission,” Trump tweeted Monday.
So, why attack the bi-partisan commission set up to organize these debates? It’s pretty simple, really, if you look at Trump’s record on these types of things. It’s all about managing expectations and trying to gain leverage. If he goes into the event alleging past bias, then it becomes incumbent upon the event organizers to go above and beyond in trying to avoid validating Trump’s claim. In essence, Trump’s criticism is like an insurance policy for either direction. It’s either, “See, I told you they were biased,” if things don’t go his way. Or the opposite is also possible with the event organizers making sure they give Trump whatever he wants and ensuring his approval to avoid further criticism or avoid giving him the validity of being right.
There’s no conceivable way that President Trump would skip debating his Democratic opponent in 2020. There is too much at stake, and he thrives in the limelight and worldwide attention these debates receive. By attacking the process now, though, he’s already on the record if he comes off badly in them.
It’s unlikely that Trump would skip or boycott the 2020 debates, but that doesn’t mean you won’t hear about that possibility a dozen more times between now and then.