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CNN rules for first US presidential debate: no props, muted microphones

Joe Biden

The first U.S. presidential debate between incumbent Joe Biden and Republican challenger Donald Trump is scheduled for June 27 and will feature two commercial breaks, no props, and muted microphones except when the candidates are speaking, CNN announced Saturday.

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In May, the candidates agreed to participate in two debates. The first, taking place this month, will be moderated by CNN anchors Jake Tapper and Dana Bash in Atlanta. The second debate will be hosted by ABC on September 10.

CNN stated that both candidates will stand at uniform podiums during the 90-minute debate. The podium positions will be determined by a coin flip, and each candidate will be provided with a pen, a pad of paper, and a bottle of water, but no props will be allowed. The microphones will be muted except for the candidate who is recognized to speak.

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As a division of Warner Bros Discovery, CNN emphasized that the moderators will “use all tools at their disposal to enforce timing and ensure a civilized discussion.” During the two commercial breaks, campaign staff will not be allowed to interact with their candidates, and there will be no studio audience.

Candidates eligible to participate in the debates must appear on enough state ballots to potentially secure the 270 electoral votes needed to win and must achieve at least 15% in four separate national polls. CNN mentioned that it is “not impossible” for independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to qualify, noting he has received at least 15% in three qualifying polls so far and has qualified for the ballot in six states, making him eligible for 89 electoral votes.

The debates, which are expected to draw a U.S. live television audience in the tens of millions, carry significant risks for both candidates in a close race. According to a campaign memo seen by Reuters, Biden’s preferred debate topics are abortion rights, the state of democracy, and the economy. In contrast, Trump, who declined to debate his rivals during the Republican nominating race, has indicated that immigration, public safety, and inflation will be his key issues during the debate.

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