The 2024 campaign season is in full swing, and our presidential election will make a unique mark on history. The contest between Donald Trump and Joe Biden will show the world the first “rematch” between presidential candidates in nearly 70 years. Both candidates will officially become their respective parties’ nominees following the Republican and Democratic National Conventions in July and August. Soon after, we can expect to see the candidates debate. These debates will be especially historic because, although this will be the seventh presidential election rematch in American history, it will be the first with televised debates.

Trump and Biden will likely debate three times. Debates between the nominees traditionally take place in the fall season, usually in September and October, before November’s general election. While they have met on the debate stage before, they have done so only twice, due to the challenges that 2020 presented — including Trump’s positive COVID-19 diagnosis, which led to cancellation of that year’s second planned debate.

Contrary to appearances, official presidential debates are not sponsored by the news media at large or the particular news outlets that air them. They are sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD). The CPD was founded in 1987 by the heads of the national Democratic and Republican Parties. Its creation followed the recommendation of the bipartisan National Commission on Elections, which recommended this arrangement so voters could see the candidates and to ensure stability for the debate process. The CPD has sponsored all such debates since its founding. That does not mean, however, that the debates have been free from controversy or accusations of bias against those chosen to moderate them.

In 2020, Chris Wallace of Fox News moderated the first debate between Trump and Biden, while Kristen Welker of NBC News moderated the second. This might show an attempt by the CPD to balance political viewpoints. For 2024, the CPD has announced the following debate dates and sites: September 16 in Texas, October 1 in Virginia, and October 9 in Utah. Moderators have not yet been announced.

Since 2020, we have not seen Biden speak in a debate-like setting, including a candidate forum. Official CPD-sponsored debates differ from the various forums that private organizations might host in earlier months of the campaign season. Some examples of these groups include the Faith and Freedom Coalition (on the Republican side) and MoveOn (on the Democrat side). Presidential candidates typically show up to forums to appeal to the groups’ members because they include opinion leaders and key voting blocs. This election season, Trump has participated in six forums, ranging from the Republican Jewish Coalition Conference to the Florida Freedom Summit. Biden has not participated in recent forums, adding intrigue to a potential Biden-Trump debate rematch.

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What issues will we see Biden and Trump debate in 2024? Four years ago, topics included health care, violence in large cities, COVID-19, Israel, illegal immigration, and the economy. Both candidates, having served as president, have records from their time in office. This differs from two debate situations that we are typically accustomed to seeing: one, a situation in which a challenger without a record as president is contrasted with an incumbent president, and two, a completely different situation in which neither candidate has been president and therefore has no record to defend or discuss.

Also interestingly, although the Republican National Committee (RNC) voted to withdraw from the CPD in early 2022, alleging bias by the CPD, its boycott is not binding on the eventual Republican nominee—Trump. Further, the then-chairwoman of the RNC, Ronna McDaniel, has recently left her post, and new leadership includes Lara Trump, Trump’s daughter-in-law. Neither Trump nor Biden has announced a final decision on debate participation this year. We will see too whether Robert F. Kennedy Jr. attains the 15% of national polling needed to qualify for the debate stage.

President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden appear in the first Presidential debate in the Sheila and Eric Samson Pavilion at the Cleveland Clinic, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, in Cleveland.

President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden appear in the first Presidential debate in the Sheila and Eric Samson Pavilion at the Cleveland Clinic, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, in Cleveland.

Although some might call modern presidential debates “infotainment,” debates provide a valuable, direct comparison between the candidates in real time. Even if we tune in to be entertained, we gain specific information that can be helpful. Candidates must communicate to voters live, without the benefit of a spokesperson, intermediary, or prerecorded segment. We see their ability to speak, think on their feet, respond to questions and attacks, and address issues on the minds of Americans. In the forthcoming Biden-Trump rematch, we will witness history. Let’s hope these historic debates show us who should lead the United States, and the world, into the future.

Nicole James teaches political science at Eastern Florida State College.

This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Trump-Biden debate will feature two men with experience in oval office

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