Trump campaign eyes its own town hall event in place of debate

The Trump campaign is eyeing its own town hall event on Thursday to compete with Democratic nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenMcConnell challenger dodges court packing question ‘Hamilton’ cast to reunite for Biden fundraiser Trump relishes return to large rallies following COVID-19 diagnosis MORE after a previously scheduled debate for that night was scrapped.

Vice President Pence on Tuesday said such an event is in the works for the president, and the campaign is reportedly in talks with NBC about hosting.

No formal event has been announced, and there may be safety concerns given Trump’s recent COVID-19 diagnosis and the number of cases among White House and campaign staff.

“The American people deserve to see both candidates squared off and the president’s made it very clear that he was ready to debate this week,” Pence told Julie Mason on SiriusXM radio.

“I think there’s plans underway for us to have a similar public town hall event Thursday night. I think Joe Biden is doing the same, but how much better would it be if they were both on the stage, both taking the tough questions from people like you.”

The Trump campaign and NBC did not immediately respond to requests for comment about plans for a town hall. President TrumpDonald John TrumpTwo ethics groups call on House to begin impeachment inquiry against Barr Trump relishes return to large rallies following COVID-19 diagnosis McGrath: McConnell ‘can’t get it done’ on COVID-19 relief MORE is set to hold a rally in North Carolina on Thursday afternoon, leaving open the possibility of a public forum event later that evening.

Biden, meanwhile, will take part in a town hall event of his own on Thursday night in lieu of the second presidential debate. ABC will host that event in Philadelphia.

The second debate was scheduled for Thursday night in Miami, Fla., and was set to be a town hall set up. But Trump balked at the Commission on Presidential Debates’ decision to go virtual for the event after the president and several aides contracted COVID-19.

“That’s not acceptable to us,” Trump said of the virtual set up, calling it a waste of time.

The president and his allies insisted he would be well enough to debate in person, but the commission stood its ground and the debate was ultimately canceled. The third and final debate between Trump and Biden is slated for Oct. 22. 

Trump can ill afford to skip the debate then cede millions of eyeballs to Biden on Thursday. The president is trailing in the polls and has just three weeks to plead his case in crucial swing states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida and North Carolina.

The first presidential debate between Trump and Biden drew roughly 73 million viewers. Trump’s town hall with ABC last month, by comparison, attracted nearly 4 million viewers.

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