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The next presidential debate on Zoom? It may yet happen

A campaign adviser to President Donald Trump has suggested that, as long as his health permits, Trump’s positive test for coronavirus could mean that the next debate between him and former Vice President Joe Biden will take place with both men appearing on digital displays instead of in person.

Mica Mosbacher suggested the idea in an interview with BBC Radio’s flagship news show on Friday morning, October 2.

“I don’t want to get ahead of the White House, but it’s entirely possible to have a debate virtually in two weeks,” Mosbacher told BBC Radio 4’s Today show.

The next debate is scheduled for Thursday, October 15, a date that falls just inside the CDC’s recommended 14-day isolation period for those directly affected by COVID-19, or anyone who has come into close contact with a person that has received a positive test.

Mosbacher’s intriguing comments suggest we could be in for a highly unusual presidential debate where both Trump and Biden appear on stage not in person but instead on large computer monitors, locking horns from remote locations. After the last chaotic clash, such a setup might actually sound attractive to moderator Steve Scully, as he would not only be able to cut the mics, but also turn the pictures off, too, if things got out of hand.

Alternatively, the organizers could do away with the stage altogether and just conduct the debate from a studio, with live feeds linked to Trump and Biden’s separate locations. Videoconferencing software such as Zoom could also play a role.

It’s fair to say we’re still some way from seeing a presidential debate taking place in this way, but the fact that the idea has already been raised by a member of Trump’s campaign team suggests it could yet happen. Another solution would be to hold the debate in the usual way a day or two later.

Trump announced on Thursday evening that both he and wife, Melania, had tested positive for the virus, saying in a tweet that they will get through it.

It’s not clear if the president or Melania are exhibiting any symptoms, though Trump’s physician, Sean Conley, said they are “both well at this time,” adding that the pair would stay at the White House during their isolation period.

“Rest assured, I expect the president to continue carrying out his duties without disruption while recovering, and I will keep you updated on any future developments,” Conley said in a message issued by the White House.

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Trevor Mogg
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