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The Vice Presidential debate had less arguing and a lot more talk about the issues, but there were still a few heated moments.

USA TODAY

The next presidential debate has been moved to a virtual format, but President Donald Trump says he will not participate.

The Commission on Presidential Debates announced Thursday that the Oct. 15 debate would be remote to “protect the health and safety of all involved” amid the COVID-19 pandemic and Trump’s positive COVID-19 diagnosis. 

While Trump said he wouldn’t take part (he called the virtual debate a “joke”), the Biden campaign, however, said they would. 

Meanwhile, Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, who also tested positive for COVID-19 last week, said Trump would hold a rally instead of participating in the debate. 

The news comes after the first and likely only vice presidential debate on Wednesday in Salt Lake City. The debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris was less chaotic than the presidential debate last week and candidates were separated by 12 feet with plexiglass shields.

☕ The latest: 

  • The Trump campaign is exploring the prospect of an event on Monday in Pittsburgh, an aide said. The aide did not elaborate, saying only it would be an “event” and not a “rally” for the COVID-stricken president.
  • An unexpected moment went viral Wednesday when a fly landed on to of Pence’s head for several minutes while he debated Harris. 
  • Trump returned to the Oval Office on Wednesday, breaking quarantine by returning to the offices where the president and more than a dozen employees have tested positive for COVID-19.
  • The president released another video Thursday that focused on the military after saying in a video Wednesday that the “key” to his recovery from the virus was the experimental antibody cocktail by drugmaker Regeneron.

📆 26 days until Election Day, seven days until the second presidential debate, 104 days until Inauguration Day, 85 days left in 2020.

🗳️ Voting: See USA TODAY’s Voter Guide for information on registering to vote, when your state begins voting and what the candidates think about the issues. 

We will update this article throughout the day. You can follow all of USA TODAY’s politics reporters on Twitter or subscribe to our daily On Politics newsletter. 

Who won the vice presidential debate? There’s no ‘winner’ but here’s what you missed

While there’s no “winner” of the debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris, it was much different than the presidential debate last week: Name calling and insults were largely absent and at one point, Pence congratulated Harris on making history.

But there were plenty of skirmishes between the two candidates who were separated by plexiglass barriers and seated 12 feet apart because of coronavirus precautions. Harris, in particular, chastised Pence for interrupting her several times. 

Among the highlights:

  • Pence defended the administration’s refusal to follow CDC guidelines, like mask wearing, at the White House event with Trump’s Supreme Court pick, Amy Coney Barrett.
  • Harris dodged questions on expanding the Supreme Court. 
  • Harris told Pence she would “not be lectured … on what it means to enforce the laws of our country,” when responding to a question about the Breonna Taylor case. 
  • Pence congratulated Harris on making history as the first Black woman and first Asian American woman on a major party’s presidential ticket
  • Harris and Pence had a sharp exchange over climate change. Pence charged that Biden would ban fracking, which Harris denied. 

Read more here.

– Deirdre Shesgreen, Phillip M. Bailey and Caren Bohan

Trump, trailing by double digits: ‘I don’t believe the polls’

As new polls show Joe Biden building a double-digit lead over President Donald Trump, the president has a ready response: Rejection.

“I don’t believe the polls,” Trump told Fox Business Network on Thursday morning. “The polls are rigged just like the media is rigged.”

Some new polls have given Biden leads of more than 10 percentage points in the week-and-half since the first Trump-Biden debate and the president’s positive test for COVID-19. The Real Clear Politics average of recent polls put Biden at 51.6% and Trump at 41.9% – a difference of 9.7 percentage points.

Trump and aides are quick to point out that he trailed in the polls four years ago against Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“We know that polling is notoriously wrong,” campaign spokeswoman Erin Perrine said on Fox Business.

– David Jackson

Trump focuses on military in latest video

President Donald Trump released the latest in a series of videos Thursday, this time touting his efforts to expand a U.S. military that he asserted has “never been stronger.”

Trump has not been seen in person since he returned from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Monday where doctors administered several drugs for coronavirus. Instead, he has issued a series of short videos on a near daily basis.

The latest message, shot on the South Lawn, did not mention coronavirus at all and instead sounded many of the same themes he has articulated on the campaign trail about his administration’s military spending. It was posted minutes after Trump conducted a phone-in interview on Fox Business Network in which he announced he would not take part in the next debate after it was moved to a virtual format.  

– John Fritze

Trump says he won’t take part in virtual debate

President Donald Trump said Thursday he would not take part in the next presidential debate on Oct. 15 after it was moved to a virtual format due to COVID-19 safety concerns. 

“I’m not going to waste my time doing a virtual debate,” he told Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo.

The Commission on Presidential Debates announced Thursday morning the next presidential debate would be remote to “protect the health and safety of all involved” amid the COVID-19 pandemic and Trump’s positive COVID-19 diagnosis. 

The town hall format will feature debate moderator Steve Scully, C-SPAN’s Senior executive producer and political editor, with participants based in Miami, but former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump will participate in “separate remote locations,” the Commission said. Read more here.

– Nicholas Wu

Susan Page: Debates are designed to help voters

Susan Page believes debates are designed to help voters. To her, they aren’t for the news media or the candidates. By that standard, last week’s presidential debate didn’t make for a particularly good viewing experience.

Page, USA TODAY’s Washington Bureau chief, presided over Wednesday’s vice presidential debate between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris in Salt Lake City. Leading up to the debate, Page said she sought ways to create a different kind of conversation. 

That task required a more aggressive moderation than she’d planned to allow equal speaking time for both candidates, and she had to cut a planned segment on immigration. Still, Page was hopeful the debate was useful for voters.

“I didn’t get answers to all the questions I had hoped to get,” she told USA TODAY Editor-In-Chief Nicole Carroll after the debate. “I think sometimes I got prepared speeches instead of spontaneous responses — that shouldn’t be a surprise.”

An analysis from CNN reported Harris and Pence were given nearly identical speaking time, with the Democratic senator from California clocking in at 36 minutes and 24 seconds and the Republican vice president speaking for just three seconds more. Read more here. 

– Jordan Culver 

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Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for USA TODAY, is the first print journalist to solo-moderate a presidential debate. Here’s how she prepared.

USA TODAY

Will Trump hold a rally on Monday? 

Trump’s aides are working to satisfy his desire to get back out on the campaign trail as soon as possible – perhaps early next week.

The campaign is exploring the prospect of an event on Monday in Pittsburgh, an aide said. The aide did not elaborate, saying only it would be an “event” and not a “rally” for the COVID-stricken president.

– David Jackson

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