Explainer-Biden vs Trump: What to expect from presidential debates

By Katharine Jackson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump have agreed to two debates ahead of November's election, scheduling televised face-offs that could prove critical in their tight rematch to win the White House.

Here is what you need to know about the upcoming debates.

WHEN AND WHERE ARE THE DEBATES?

The first debate will air on June 27 on CNN, the cable news network announced, and be broadcast from an Atlanta studio without a live audience.

Television news channel ABC said it will host the second presidential debate on Sept. 10, also from an audience-free studio.

WHO WILL MODERATE THE DEBATES?

Anchors Jake Tapper and Dana Bash will moderate CNN's June debate. ABC's will be moderated by anchors David Muir and Linsey Davis.

WHICH CANDIDATES ARE ELIGIBLE?

To participate, CNN and ABC will require debate candidates to appear on a sufficient number of state ballots to reach the 270 electoral vote threshold and receive at least 15% in four separate national polls of registered or likely voters.

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr said in a post on X that he will meet the criteria to participate in the CNN debate before the June 20 deadline. It remained unclear if he would qualify.

A new Reuters/Ipsos poll shows 13% of Americans would vote for Kennedy in a three-way race with Trump and Biden.

WHAT WILL THE RULES BE?

The rivals disagree on what the terms of engagement should be and those have yet to be announced.

Biden said he would participate with strict rules in place, including microphone controls to reduce interruptions and a venue featuring candidates and moderators alone.

Trump has called for a very large venue "for excitement purposes."

WHAT WILL VOTERS BE LOOKING FOR?

U.S. presidential debates often draw tens of millions of viewers, and through history have determined the course of some races. This time, strategists say there are risks for both candidates, who are locked in a tight race and share low enthusiasm from voters.

Biden aides think debates could hurt Trump by exposing his sometimes changing positions on issues, like abortion, that they regard as political vulnerabilities.

Trump aides see Biden as prone to verbal slip ups that could amplify voter concerns about the 81-year-old president's age. Trump will be 78 by the time the first debate is held.

WHAT HAPPENED WHEN TRUMP AND BIDEN LAST DEBATED?

Then-President Trump and Biden debated twice during the 2020 race, with their first exchange devolving into a chaotic shouting match.

For the second debate, moderators said they would mute each candidate's microphone to allow the other to speak without interruption for the first two minutes of each debate segment. But the candidates behaved more civilly and the mute button was not a major factor.

A third debate was canceled after Trump tested positive for COVID-19 and spent three days in a hospital. He declined to participate in a virtual event.

IS THAT IT?

Trump accepted Biden's proposed June and September debate dates, while also seeking two additional debates, in July and August.

In a Truth Social post on Wednesday, Trump said he had accepted terms for a matchup on Fox News in October.

The Biden team showed no signs of accepting Trump's invitation for more debates. A Biden campaign spokesperson declined comment on the issue.

Traditionally, there are three presidential debates.

A separate vice presidential debate has been proposed for July, after the Republican National Convention.

(Reporting by Katharine Jackson; Editing by Heather Timmons and Bill Berkrot)