As with almost everything related to Trump, his plans can change.
Trump’s team is in talks with NBC over a town hall, according to several sources familiar with the planning. “Today” show co-host Savannah Guthrie would be the likely host. However, the event depends on the president testing negative for the coronavirus, the sources say.
City hall will likely be in an outdoor setting in Miami, just like the one NBC recently hosted with Biden, the sources added.
So far there has been no announcement from NBC – a network Trump used to work on but with a news department he routinely attacks, whose parent company Comcast he calls “Concast” – or the campaign.
Biden’s plan is more specific. He will attend a town hall on ABC hosted by George Stephanopoulos on Thursday at 8 p.m. Eastern.
ABC and the Biden campaign announced the event on October 8, the same hectic day that the Debate Commission switched the long-planned debate to a “virtual” format in the face of Trump’s coronavirus disease. Trump hastily said he would not be attending, and his election officials lobbied the Presidential Debate Commission for changing the format without consultation.
So camp called Biden ABC, which was producing a town hall with Trump in September and wanted to do the same with Biden.
“He, Donald Trump, refused to attend a virtual town hall, so we were planning a national network town hall instead so Joe Biden could answer questions from voters,” Kate Bedingfield, Biden deputy campaign director, told CNN’s State of the Union “.
The Trump campaign, which lags far behind in the polls, has tried to put the debate back on the calendar and in person. At one point, the campaign proposed that the two remaining debates be postponed by one week to October 22nd and 29th.
However, the non-partisan commission has not publicly accepted this proposal. And the Biden campaign refused. Bedingfield argued, “We all agreed on these dates in June and we won’t let him try at the last second to rewrite the rules.”
Republican party officials and Fox commentators have been beating the commission for the past few days. Republican National Committee Chairman Ronna McDaniel said on CBS that the “corrupt” commission “has impaired our ability to see the debate between these two candidates.”
“There are Republicans on this commission,” said moderator Margaret Brennan, “and that decision was made in part for health reasons.”
“Well, they’re not impartial Republicans,” claimed McDaniel. “Those Republicans were very critical of this president.”
News from Trump allies was ubiquitous, and White House deputy communications director Brian Morgenstern said Sunday that the commission should postpone the debate, which was scrapped due to Trump’s decision to withdraw.
“The president is ready to debate and his doctors have released him for participation in public engagements,” Morgenstern told reporters on Sunday. “You said it was no longer a transmission risk. So it would be nice if the Commission put the debate back on the agenda.”
Otherwise, Morgenstern said, Trump will hold a town hall – a nod to the NBC event.
Trump campaign senior advisor Jason Miller said Friday on Fox that “we will actually be on multiple networks at the same time” like Biden.
That’s because NBC will simulate Trump’s City Hall on its MSNBC and CNBC cable properties, just as it aired its October 5th event with Biden. This event had a total of 6.7 million television viewers and was also shown on the NBC and Telemundo digital platforms.
“We’re going to have a much bigger audience than Joe next Thursday,” Miller added.
The planned town hall-type debate would have reached at least 60 million viewers based on the ratings for the September debate and previous election cycles.
Both Biden and Trump will settle for a much smaller audience by having their town halls on Thursday.
– CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, Jason Hoffman and Arlette Saenz contributed to the coverage