Wyoming leaders hoping to host Trump-Biden debate

Posted 8/11/20

Three of Wyoming’s top officials are backing President Donald Trump’s call to hold an additional presidential debate in early September — and they’re requesting it be held in …

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Wyoming leaders hoping to host Trump-Biden debate


Three of Wyoming’s top officials are backing President Donald Trump’s call to hold an additional presidential debate in early September — and they’re requesting it be held in Wyoming.

In a letter distributed Monday, Secretary of State Ed Buchanan, Gov. Mark Gordon and State Treasurer Curt Meier asked the Commission on Presidential Debates to schedule a fourth debate in Wyoming “in order to continue preserving fairness and transparency in this year’s presidential election.”

The commission has scheduled three presidential debates, with the first set for Sept. 29 in Cleveland. However, that’s 11 days after Wyoming residents can begin voting, Buchanan, Meier and Gordon noted in their request for an earlier debate.

“Wyomingites who vote early deserve the same opportunity afforded to other states to hear the two competing visions for our country and make a well-informed decision when casting their vote at the ballot box — especially when one candidate has spent the duration of the campaign avoiding voters and questions from the press,” the three Republicans wrote, referring to presumptive Democratic Party nominee Joe Biden.

The letter is essentially a word-for-word copy of one that South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and three members of that state’s Congressional delegation sent Saturday, simply subbing in Wyoming for South Dakota.

The Trump campaign requested a fourth, earlier debate in a Wednesday letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates. Campaign representative Rudy Giuliani noted that Americans in 16 states will have already started voting by Sept. 29 and alluded to the fact that more voters will likely vote early or by absentee amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Simply put, the Commission’s current approach is an outdated dinosaur and not reflective of voting realities in 2020,” Giuliani wrote.

In a Thursday response, the commission said it would consider a fourth debate if Biden and Trump agree to it, but otherwise reiterated the plans for three events. The response also downplayed the significance of holding the first event after some early voting has opened.

“There is a difference between ballots having been issued by a state and those ballots having been cast by voters, who are under no compulsion to return their ballots before the debates,” wrote commission members Frank Fahrenkopf Jr., Dorothy Ridings and Kenneth Wollack. “In 2016, when the debate schedule was similar, only .0069% of the electorate had voted at the time of the first debate.”

“While more people will likely vote by mail in 2020, the debate schedule has been and will be highly publicized,” the commission wrote. “Any voter who wishes to watch one or more debates before voting will be well aware of that opportunity.”

The Biden campaign committed to the three debates in a June 22 letter to the commission. Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said President Trump was requesting changes because he “is trailing badly in the polls, and is desperate to change the subject from his failed leadership of the country.”

O’Malley Dillon said Biden “welcomed direct questions from uncommitted voters on a frequent basis” in the primary “and we think it is time that President Trump faced such questioning himself.”

On Wednesday, Guiliani derided Biden’s letter as confirmation that the former vice president “is indeed available to leave his basement for the fall debates.” When the commission indicated it plans to stick with three events, Guiliani took another shot at Biden by saying the commission’s reply “makes it clear that the idea of an earlier debate is, in effect, locked away in the basement, alone and diminished.”

Beyond the Sept. 29 event in Cleveland, other presidential debates are set for Oct. 15 in Miami and Oct. 22 in Nashville. A debate between the vice presidential candidates is set for Oct. 7 in Salt Lake City.

While getting a Trump-Biden debate in Wyoming is a long shot, the president, his son Donald Trump Jr., his son’s girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle, daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner were set to visit Jackson on Monday for a fundraiser, according to reporting by CNBC. The event is being co-hosted by Jackson financier Foster Friess, CNBC reported, with tickets for a roundtable discussion with the Trump family going for between $5,600 and $35,500.

A fundraiser for Trump held in Jackson last year raised more than $1 million for the president, according to past reporting by the Jackson Hole News&Guide.

The Democratic National Committee issued a statement panning Monday’s event.

“Wyomingites don’t need the Trumps parachuting in for a high-dollar fundraiser,” said John Weber, a spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based DNC. “They need [COVID-19] tests, personal protective equipment, and a president with the capacity to lead.”

Trump carried Wyoming with 68.2% of the vote (174,419 ballots) in 2016, as compared to 21.9% (55,973 votes) for Democrat Hillary Clinton. Early voting for the state’s 2020 general election starts Friday, Sept. 18.

Voting is currently underway for the Aug. 18 primary.