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Think Outside The Box

Trump rejects virtual debate, says may hold a campaign rally on Saturday

President Donald Trump added more turbulence to the US election campaign on Thursday, pulling out of an October 15 debate with Democratic rival Joe Biden after it was changed to a virtual event and saying he may hold a rally in Florida on Saturday.

Trump, who was hospitalised for three days after disclosing last Friday he had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, blasted the format change announced by the nonpartisan commission in charge of the debates and expressed concern his microphone could be cut off.

“I’m not going to waste my time on a virtual debate. That’s not what debating is all about,” Trump said in a nearly hour-long phone morning interview with Fox Business. “You sit behind a computer and do a debate. It’s ridiculous and then they cut you off whenever they want.”

On Thursday night, he told Fox News he was feeling “really good” and might return to the campaign trail on Saturday night, possibly with a rally in Florida. His physician said in a memo Trump had completed his course of therapy and could return to public engagements on Saturday. Trump said he would likely get tested for COVID-19 on Friday.

Trump’s decision not to participate in a virtual debate means the second and final debate between the two White House contenders will be on October 22, less than two weeks before the November 3 election. In lieu of the October 15 debate, Biden’s campaign quickly arranged a town hall-style event in Philadelphia that night to be hosted by ABC News.

The chairman of the debate commission, Frank Fahrenkopf, told the Associated Press the switch to a virtual format was not being reconsidered.

Some Trump advisers questioned his decision not to participate in the new debate format, arguing he would miss an opportunity to make his case to millions of voters tuned in, a source familiar with the situation said.

With Trump’s handling of the pandemic dominating the campaign, a new Reuters/Ipsos poll showed Americans are steadily losing confidence in how the president has managed the health crisis with his net approval on the issue hitting a record low.

The poll taken on Tuesday through Thursday found 37 per cent of American adults approved of Trump’s handling of the pandemic and 59 per cent disapproved. The net approval rating of negative 22 percentage points is the lowest in the poll dating back to March 2 and has steadily declined over the last 10 days.

Trump’s rejection of the shift in the debate format sparked a flurry of statements back and forth between the two camps. Trump’s campaign proposed holding another debate on October 29, which Biden’s campaign rejected.

“We set the dates. I’m sticking with the dates,” Biden told reporters. “I’m showing up. I’ll be there. And in fact, if he shows up, fine; if he doesn’t, fine.”