In a historical first, the Commission on Presidential Debates marked the commencement of the presidential debate schedule for 2024 as early as mid-September. This marks the earliest start to the presidential debate schedule ever, as shared by the bipartisan commission on Monday.
Recognized for sponsoring every general election presidential debate since its establishment in 1987, the Commission will conduct three debates in the upcoming election year. The first debate will be hosted on September 16 at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. Virginia State University in Petersburg, Virginia will hold the second debate on October 1, and the third and final discussion will take place on October 9 at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.
A single vice presidential debate will also take place on September 25 at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. In prior years, the first debate typically happened in late September or early October. This shift is significant considering that the first debate of the polarizing 2020 elections was held on September 29.
Revealing the 2024 schedule also showcases a new trend - the debates will wrap up much sooner than in past years. This leaves a record 27 days between the last debate and Election Day on November 5, in stark contrast to the 12-day gap in 2020 and the 20-day interval in 2016.
However, whether these debates will unfold as scheduled is still uncertain. In the previous year, the Republican National Committee opted out of its involvement in the commission. RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel at the time branded the commission as "biased," criticizing their refusal to implement simple and crucial reforms.
Nevertheless, the new timing might encourage participation from the Republican nominee. This change might even remedy one of McDaniel's criticisms - the absence of a debate prior to voting commencing.
Interestingly, the 2020 election's second presidential debate was scrapped after then-President Donald Trump declined to participate when the commission suggested conducting it virtually due to COVID-19 safety protocols. Instead, Trump and then-Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, engaged in separate town halls.
An exciting fact about the 2024 debates is that apart from the University of Utah, which hosted the 2020 vice presidential debate, the other three locations will host debates for the first time. The commission co-chairs highlighted that Virginia State University will be the first historically Black college or university to host a general election debate.
The debates will all kick off at 9 p.m. ET and are scheduled to run with no commercial interruptions for 90 minutes. Exact format details and the selection of moderators are yet to be announced and will be disclosed next year.
The invitation to participate in the debates will be extended to candidates who are constitutionally eligible to serve as president, are on enough state ballots to bag a majority of the electoral votes, and have registered a minimum of 15% in polls from organizations selected by the commission.