Election 2020

Notre Dame Withdraws as Host of First Presidential Debate. Here's What We Know.

(AP Photo, File)

The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) announced on Monday that the first presidential debate will be held on Sept. 29 in Cleveland, rather than at Notre Dame University, after the Indiana school said it no longer wanted to host the event.

“The CPD is pleased to announce that the first presidential debate will be co-hosted by Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic and held at the Health Education Campus (HEC) in Cleveland,” the organization tasked with organizing presidential debates said in a press release.

“This will be the second CPD-sponsored debate hosted by Case Western Reserve University,” the commission added. In 2004, the university was the site of the vice-presidential debate.

Notre Dame said in a Monday press release, “After consultation with Dr. Mark Fox, St. Joseph County deputy health officer, and with the unanimous support of the Executive Committee of the University’s Board of Trustees, Father [John] Jenkins made what he called ‘this difficult decision’ because the necessary health precautions would have greatly diminished the educational value of hosting the debate on our campus.”

Jenkins, who is a member of the Presidential Debate Commission, said that “the inevitable reduction in student attendance in the debate hall, volunteer opportunities and ancillary educational events undermined the primary benefit of hosting — to provide our students with a meaningful opportunity to engage in the American political process.”

This would have been the university’s first time to host a presidential debate.

The debates, three in all, will be 90 minutes in length, without commercial breaks, and will be broadcast by the White House pool networks. The second and third debates will be held in Miami (Oct. 15) and Nashville (Oct. 22) respectively.

No word yet on who will moderate the debates, but there are, no doubt, fierce negotiations going on behind the scenes to try and nail down the specifics. Trump campaign officials Rudy Giuliani and Brad Parscale met with a member of the commission last month hoping to secure an additional debate, but there’s been no indication that the debate commission intends to grant that request, and the schedule that’s been announced indicates it’s set in stone at this point.

It seems proper that the first debate will be held in Ohio, the perennial battleground state. The Cook Political Report has Ohio listed as “leans Republican,” as does Sabato’s Crystal Ball. Polls have Trump and Biden in a virtual tie (within the margin of error).

A July 15-16 Rasmussen poll has Biden ahead by 4 points, but the internals of the poll seem to favor the incumbent. Asked about Trump, nearly half say they either approve or strongly approve of the job he’s doing as president. Forty-eight percent say Trump would handle the economy better, to Biden’s 45. In one of the more interesting poll questions, 40 percent think their neighbors will vote for Trump, while only 30 percent said that of the Democrat. Asked which candidate has the “mental sharpness” needed to be president, 12 percent chose Trump, 6 percent Biden—not exactly a ringing endorsement for either candidate.

The recent arrests of Republican House Speaker Larry Housholder and former GOP chairman Matt Borges, who have been implicated in a massive $60 billion bribery scandal, may come into play in the presidential contest. The feds have indicated that additional arrests may be forthcoming. This follows a revelation last year that then-Speaker Cliff Rosenberger was being investigated by the FBI for a corruption scandal of his own.

Those corrupt chickens may come home to roost in November, and the erosion of support for Republicans in the state may spill over to Trump. It’ll be very interesting to see whether Trump distances himself from Ohio Republicans on the campaign trail. While it may have been true in past campaigns that endorsements from state officeholders are necessary to help carry a candidate over the finish line, Trump bested Hillary Clinton by eight points in Ohio in 2016 without the endorsement of the mailman’s son (John Kasich, in case you were living in a cave in 2016) who refused to speak on his behalf at the convention.

At any rate, expect to see Trump in Ohio a lot this fall—and Biden too, if they ever let him out of the basement.

FBI Arrests Ohio House Speaker, Former GOP Chairman in Alleged $60M Bribery Scheme