The panel that runs the presidential debates said Wednesday that officials are developing rules changes for the remaining events to try to prevent a repeat of the unwieldy scene that spun out of control in Cleveland on Tuesday night.
The announcement prompted a swift pushback from President Trump’s campaign, which said Democratic rival Joseph R. Biden is trying to work the refs after getting “pummeled” in the candidates’ first debate.
The Commission on Presidential Debates said it wants to make sure “additional tools to maintain order” are in place.
“[Tuesday’s] debate made clear that additional structure should be added to the format of the remaining debates to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues,” the commission said in a statement.
The panel plans to issue new rules that will involve cutting off a candidate’s microphone if he or she violates them, according to CBS News.
Observers on both sides of the aisle said changes were needed after the debate, described as “a train wreck,” “a disaster” and “unhinged.”
Mr. Trump fended off both Mr. Biden and moderator Chris Wallace as he repeatedly interrupted to make his points and try to throw Mr. Biden off his game.
Mr. Biden called Mr. Trump a “clown” and told him to shut up.
Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh responded to the talk of rules changes by saying that they’re being considered because Mr. Biden got “pummeled.”
“President Trump was the dominant force and now Joe Biden is trying to work the refs,” Mr. Murtaugh said. “They shouldn’t be moving the goalposts and changing the rules in the middle of the game.”
Mr. Trump, leaving Washington for a campaign rally in Minnesota on Wednesday night, said he felt comfortable on the stage in Cleveland.
“I don’t mind debating him. I hear he wants to get out of the debates,” Mr. Trump said of Mr. Biden. “That’s up to him … by every measure, we won the debate easily.”
Mr. Biden said Wednesday that the commission should find a way to let the candidates answer the questions without interruptions, calling Mr. Trump’s conduct a “national embarrassment.”
The former vice president said he’s looking forward to the Oct. 15 debate in Miami, where it might be more difficult for Mr. Trump to interrupt given the event’s town hall format with uncommitted voters.
“I’m looking forward to it, and I hope we’re able to get a chance to actually answer the questions that are asked by the persons in the room,” Mr. Biden said while campaigning in Ohio. “But God only knows what he’ll do.”
Cutting off the candidates’ microphones could deny the president one of the main tactics he used in the first debate: peppering his rival directly with uncomfortable questions.
Mr. Trump, who says journalists treat Mr. Biden far more gingerly than they treat him, decided to take matters into his own hands during the debate in Cleveland. He confronted the Democrat repeatedly with questions that he says the media overlooks, such as why Mr. Biden won’t release a list of potential Supreme Court nominees.
“Who is on your list, Joe?” Mr. Trump demanded. Mr. Biden didn’t answer.
After reporters tossed more softball questions at Mr. Biden on Wednesday at a campaign event in Ohio, the president tweeted, “Such a timid group of reporters at the Biden Press Conference. Where do these people come from?”
Sen. Pat Toomey, Pennsylvania Republican, was skeptical that rules tweaks could prevent the candidates from jumping in.
“Not sure there’s a format change that solves that problem,” Mr. Toomey said.
Steve Scully of C-SPAN, the cable network that provides neutral coverage of politics and Capitol Hill, is the moderator for the next presidential debate.
The final presidential debate is scheduled for Oct. 22 in Nashville, Tennessee. NBC’s Kristen Welker is the moderator.
Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala D. Harris are set to square off in the single vice presidential debate on Oct. 7 in Salt Lake City. Susan Page of USA Today is the moderator.
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