Campaigns still have option to pull out of debate
The saga continues.
With just nine days until Washington University hosts the town-hall debate between President Bush and Senator Kerry, the meeting remains in a limbo of sorts.
Both candidates have agreed to participate in the debate, but because the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) has refused to sign the campaigns’ agreement, either candidate could pull out at any time.
The Washington Post reported yesterday that the Bush-Cheney campaign is considering doing just that. The Post and the New York Times reported that if the campaign does withdraw from a debate, it would likely be from either the one at Washington University or the third debate, which is to be held at Arizona State University.
The CPD refused to sign the candidates’ debate agreement, but in a statement posted to its Web site on Monday, the commission committed to enforcing the debate rules largely as outlined in the memo. The CPD wrote that no changes to the rules in the memo will be made “without prior consultation with and approval by the appropriate campaign representatives.”
The New York Times reported on Tuesday that one area where the commission may want to change the rules agreed to by the campaigns is in the selection of the participants in the University’s town-hall debate. The CPD had originally proposed that all audience members be undecided voters, while the campaigns demanded that the participants be composed of 50 percent “soft Kerry” supporters and 50 percent “soft Bush” supporters.
Regardless of what the CPD might like, Steven Smith, a professor of political science, said he doubts the method of selecting participants is likely to cause the debate’s cancellation.
“I think if either candidate backed out over this issue, it would not look good,” he said. “I think that this issue will be successfully negotiated.”
Steve Givens, who is chairing the University’s debate planning committee, said Tuesday afternoon that he had still heard nothing official from the CPD about the status of the debate.
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