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Presidential debate in Miami canceled after Trump refuses to participate virtually

The final debate, scheduled for Oct. 22 in Nashville, Tennessee, is still on and both campaigns have agreed to be there.
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The second presidential debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden slated for next week has been canceled, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced on Friday.

Frank Fahnrenkopf, the co-chair of the commission told NBC News on Friday said that since both campaigns have indicated they have other plans, the Miami face-off set for Oct. 15 between the two candidates will not go on as planned.

Trump pulled out of that debate when the commission said it would be held remotely and Biden then agreed to hold a town hall on ABC that night. Several networks are reportedly interested in having a Trump town hall that same night.

"The CPD will turn its attention to preparations for the final presidential debate scheduled for October 22," the commission said in a statement.

The second presidential debate format was a town hall in which candidates take questions directly from voters. However, that format may not have been favorable to Trump, as it tends to benefit candidates with a talent for expressing compassion and empathy.

In a new Pew Research Center poll released Friday, an hour before the debate was called off, Biden was rated 33 points higher than Trump by voters asked whether the word “compassionate” describes each candidate.

Nonetheless, the president's refusal to participate in the second debate has alarmed Republican strategists, who say it's the best chance he has to pitch his case directly to voters. The president has suggested holding campaign rallies over the remaining few weeks of the campaign. The NBC News national polling average showed the president trailing Biden by 10 percentage points.

That final debate — to be moderated by Kristen Welker of NBC News — is still on and both campaigns have agreed. It will be a standup traditional debate format.

"Subject to health security considerations, and in accordance with all required testing, masking, social distancing and other protocols, the debate will take place at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee," the commission said in a statement.

The commission recently announced it would host a virtual debate between Trump and Biden as a safety precaution after the president was infected with Covid-19 and later hospitalized.

Since being released from the hospital, Trump has boasted about his recovery and said he would not participate in a virtual debate. His campaign said there is no medical reason to continue with a virtual debate since the president's doctors have said Trump can resume normal activities as early as Saturday.

"There is also no reason there shouldn’t be the three total presidential debates as Joe Biden had originally agreed. We have suggested using October 22 and October 29 to hold the final two debates," Trump campaign spokesperson Tim Murtaugh said in a statement. "It’s time for the biased commission to stop protecting Biden and preventing voters from hearing from the two candidates for president.”

He added that the campaigns should usurp the commission and "debate one-on-one without the commission’s interference.”

Trump and his allies have repeatedly criticized the commission, claiming it showed bias against him in 2016 and in this year's election.

On Friday, Trump retweeted former Republican Sen. Bob Dole, who claimed the Republicans on the nonpartisan commission do not support the president. Trump called the baseless claim "So true!"

During a Fox News interview Friday night, Trump said he would have "no trouble at all" doing an in-person debate if it were outside in Miami.

"I would love to do it outside, it would be fine as far as I'm concerned," he said.