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Trump campaign calls for early September debate ahead of early voting

Trump encourages Florida to vote by mail
Trump encourages Florida to vote by mail 02:09

Washington — President Trump's campaign is requesting a fourth presidential debate to be scheduled for the first week of September in an attempt to appeal to voters who will be casting ballots early. Trump campaign representative Rudy Giuliani sent a letter on Wednesday to the Commission on Presidential Debates asking for the additional debate, which would come weeks before the three debates already scheduled for later in September and October.

"Simply put, the Commission's current approach is an outdated dinosaur and not reflective of voting realities in 2020," Giuliani said in his letter. The former New York mayor noted that North Carolina voters will begin casting their ballots on September 4. Forty states, as well as the District of Columbia, permit no-excuse early voting in some form.

By the time of the first scheduled debate on September 29, Giuliani said, "as many as eight million Americans in 16 states will have already started voting." As many as 20 million will have voted by the vice presidential debate on October 7, Giuliani continued, and as many 35 million Americans will have cast their ballots by the second presidential debate on October 15.

"By the time of the third and final presidential debate on October 22, 2020, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, as many as 49 million Americans in 34 states will have already started voting," Giuliani wrote. "For a nation already deprived of a traditional campaign schedule because of the COVID-19 global pandemic, it makes no sense to also deprive so many Americans of the opportunity to see and hear the two competing visions for our country's future before millions of votes have been cast."

Giuliani's push for an earlier debate comes as the Trump campaign has begun pouring money into advertising in the battleground states of Florida, North Carolina, Georgia and Arizona, which are the four states that cast the majority of early or absentee ballots in 2016. In Arizona alone, three-quarters of the electorate voted before Election Day in 2016, according to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. A greater influx of early and absentee votes are anticipated this year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Giuliani's letter also presented a list of potential moderators, including right-leaning commentators and some journalists from traditional networks, including CBS News' Major Garrett and Norah O'Donnell.

"Certainly former Vice President Biden would agree with the need to avoid having millions of Americans disenfranchised by not being able to see and hear the two major party candidates debate before they have ballots in-hand, and our suggestions for location and moderators shows a spirit of cooperation the Commission should be able to agree to," Giuliani said.

He also requested the commission "solidify its backup plans for debate locations and logistics in the event additional COVID-19 complications arise at any of the locations." The University of Notre Dame announced late last month that it is withdrawing as the host site for the first of the 2020 presidential debates, scheduled for September 29. Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic will now co-host the debate, to be held at the Health Education Campus in Cleveland.

Nicole Sganga contributed to this report.

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