Another debate change: 2nd presidential debate to be virtual; Trump and Biden won’t be together

The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami. Credit: Wikipedia

The Commission on Presidential Debates announced Thursday that the Miami presidential debate next week will be a virtual town meeting with the two candidates — President Donald Trump and former vice president Joe Biden —  in separate remote locations.

The commission made the change “in order to protect the health and safety of all involved with the second presidential debate,” according to a statement.

The move came after Trump earlier tested positive for COVID-19.

Moderator Steve Scully, senior executive producer and political editor, C-SPAN Networks, will be at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County in Miami, the commission said, and the White House pool will provide coverage.

With the coronavirus pandemic continuing, the presidential debate season has created an ever-changing schedule, with venues switching through summer and fall.

The University of Notre Dame was scheduled to host the first presidential debate on Sept. 29, but the private Catholic university in Indiana bowed out because of health issues.

Cleveland became the new venue for the first presidential debate, co-hosted by Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, according to the Commission

That debate turned into an unprecedented, raucous event between Trump and Biden.

The switch for the first debate came closely after a change in venue for the second presidential debate.

In late June, the University of Michigan withdrew from hosting the second presidential debate on Oct. 15, with the university president saying that it could not safely host the debate.

That led Florida to host the venue for the second debate in Miami, at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County.

Miami-Dade has had the largest numbers of COVID-19 infections and deaths in Florida, according to data from the Florida Department of Health. As of Thursday, Miami-Dade’s infections were at 173,721.

The Miami Dade Democratic Party was critical of the change, with executive director Christopher Richmond issuing a statement:

“Joe Biden came to Miami on Monday and met with community leaders and elected officials in Little Haiti and Little Havana before answering voters’ questions for 60 minutes during a televised town hall because he respects Miami voters and has concrete plans to improve all of our lives. We are not surprised that Donald Trump is too scared to answer questions from Miami voters, because we know how disastrous his record has been for our health, our jobs, our economy and our standing as a beacon of democracy.”

The third presidential debate is scheduled Oct. 22, at Belmont University, a private Christian university in Nashville, Tennessee.

Diane Rado
Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She spent most of her career at the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and did a fellowship in education reform at the University of Michigan in 1999-2000. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.