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University of Michigan expected to withdraw from hosting presidential debate

Joe Biden preps for primaries amid pandemic
Joe Biden preps for primaries amid pandemic 02:59

The University of Michigan is expected to withdraw from hosting a 2020 presidential debate this fall, two sources familiar with the matter tell CBS News.

The university was scheduled to host the second of three debates between President Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden on October 15. A formal announcement is expected to come on Tuesday.

Sources told CBS News that the decision to withdraw was made in order to avoid having thousands of reporters, protesters and other attendees descend on Ann Arbor amid the coronavirus pandemic. University of Michigan president Mark Schlissel announced Monday that the school plans to hold a mix of in-person and remote classes this fall.

"We will protect our students, faculty and staff with a broad array of research-based public health measures and tools," Schlissel said in a statement about plans for classes this fall.

University of Michigan spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald told CBS News that he had no information to share about the debate. The news of the school's expected withdrawal was first reported by the Detroit Free Press.

Biden's campaign said Monday the former vice president plans to participate in three presidential debates. The campaign sent a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates after President Trump said last week that he was asking his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to negotiate a fourth debate between the candidates.

The other two presidential debates are scheduled to take place on September 29 at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, and on October 22 at Belmont University in Nashville. The vice presidential debate is scheduled for October 7 at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. The New York Times reported on Monday that the debate that was to be held in Michigan would move to Miami.

The Biden campaign also asked the debate commission to explain how it plans to hold in-person debates this fall during the coronavirus pandemic.

The commission said it was proceeding with its current plans and "in cooperation with federal agencies" would continue to "monitor and assess developments regarding public health and safety."

Michigan last hosted a presidential debate in 1992 at Michigan State University's campus, featuring incumbent President George H.W. Bush, then-Governor Bill Clinton and businessman Ross Perot.

Michigan is a major battleground state in the 2020 presidential race with Republicans and Democrats fiercely competing for the state's 16 electoral votes. In 2016, Mr. Trump became the first Republican to win the state since 1988. An average of polls from RealClearPolitics currently shows Biden with an 8-point lead in the state.

Costanza Maio contributed to this report.

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