Virtual or not, next week?

WASHINGTON (AP) — It’s suddenly unclear whether President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden will square off in debate again, where they might do so and whether they would face each other in person or virtually, on video screens.

Thursday’s back-and-forth began with the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates announcing that next week’s event in Miami would be virtual after Trump tested positive for the virus and amid questions about whether he is still contagious.

The president’s reelection campaign abruptly pulled out of that event, while Biden’s advisers suggested it could be pushed back a week to Oct. 22. Trump’s team accepted that date but said a third debate should happen on Oct. 29 — just before Election Day — and said it wouldn’t accept virtual substitutes.

Biden’s campaign promptly rejected debating on Oct. 29.

Despite the debate debate between the two campaigns, it is ultimately up to the commission to decide. And, even if Trump and Biden can agree on dates, the logistics could be a nightmare. Finding venues willing to reschedule on such short notice, in the middle of a pandemic, won’t be easy — and where the events might happen in Miami and then Nashville as planned is equally uncertain.

It’s yet another example of the pandemic upending the presidential race, further disrupting the president’s efforts to shift focus away from a virus that has killed more than 210,000 Americans this year.

After Trump said he’d skip next week’s debate if it were virtual, Biden’s campaign countered by asking for next Thursday’s town hall style event — the second debate for the candidates — to instead be moved back a week “so the president is not able to evade accountability.”

Trump advisers counter-countered a short time later by saying the second debate should indeed be delayed until Oct. 22 and that a third should be rescheduled for the following week, just before Election Day. And they insisted anew that the candidates must meet face to face.

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