The Commission on Presidential Debates said Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden will appear from remote locations, while voters and the moderator will ask them questions from the original debate site in Miami.
The second presidential debate next week will be a virtual affair, the commission that oversees the debates said on Thursday, in the wake of President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis.
The debate will remain a town hall-style conversation, the Commission on Presidential Debates said. Mr. Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will appear from remote locations, while voters and the moderator will ask them questions from the original debate site in Miami.
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Mr. Trump said he will refuse to take part in the presidential debate next week after it was switched to a virtual format.
“I’m not going to do a virtual debate,” he told Fox News, saying this was “not acceptable to us.”
He accused the bipartisan debate commission of trying to “protect” his opponent Mr. Biden.
The news came a day after the sole vice presidential debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Biden’s running mate, Senator Kamala Harris, who clashed repeatedly over the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic, which has killed more than 210,000 Americans.
Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris will travel together to the battleground state of Arizona on Thursday, while Mr. Pence will also visit the Southwestern state after starting his day in Nevada. Trump, who revealed a week ago that he had tested positive for coronavirus, remains sidelined from the campaign trail.
Mr. Trump’s campaign had vowed that he would participate in the October 15 debate, despite concerns that he could still be infectious. The campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether he would participate under the new format.
The first Trump-Biden debate was chaotic, with Mr. Trump repeatedly talking over his rival and the moderator, leading some to call for the moderator to have the option of muting participants’ microphones in future matchups. It was not immediately clear how the virtual format would work.
Mr. Pence, in his debate on Wednesday, defended Mr. Trump’s record on the pandemic and other issues under sharp attack by Harris, who said Trump’s failures had cost American lives. But the quiet, mostly civil debate was a sharp contrast to the combative encounter between Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden.
With less than four weeks to go until the November election — and more than 5 million votes already cast — the vice presidential debate was unlikely to change many minds in a contest dominated by voter reactions to Trump and Biden.
Nevada and Arizona, where the candidates will travel on Thursday, are critical swing states in the November 3 election. Mr. Biden has led Mr. Trump consistently in national polls, but polls show a tighter race in many of the states that will decide the election.
Mr. Biden’s campaign has targeted Arizona, which Mr. Trump carried by 3.5 percentage points in 2016 against Democrat Hillary Clinton, as a state he could flip in his bid to gather the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll on Wednesday showed Mr. Biden with a narrow 2-percentage-point edge on Mr. Trump in Arizona, which has 11 electoral votes.
Mr. Trump, 74, lost Nevada to Ms. Clinton by 2.4 percentage points in 2016, and is hoping to claim it in November, although polls have shown he has an uphill battle.
Spotlight on pandemic
Mr. Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis and an outbreak among staff in the White House and some top Senate Republicans have put a spotlight on the administration’s handling of the pandemic.
Despite his illness, Trump has been looking for ways to get his election message out, advisers said. A speech to senior voters is being contemplated for Thursday, they said. He is also scheduled to appear on Fox Business Network on Thursday morning for his first TV interview since revealing on Friday he had contracted COVID-19.
During the debate, Pence and Harris repeatedly dodged questions. Harris refused to directly answer a Pence question about whether she and Biden would add justices to the Supreme Court if they were elected.
One of the debate’s more memorable moments came when a fly landed in Pence’s white hair, settling in for an extended stay and building a quick following on Twitter, where the hashtag #fly2024 was born.