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SAUNDERS: Two Biden-Trump debates. Yes, it’s 2020 all over again.

WASHINGTON —The campaigns of President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump have agreed to two debates in 2024 — the first on June 27, the second on Sept. 10 — while signaling to the Commission on Presidential Debates its services are no longer desired.

Commission on Presidential Debates Chair Frank Fahrenkopf Jr. was philosophical about the change.

As Fahrenkopf told Politico, Biden adviser Anita Dunn and Biden whisperer Ron Klain have long opposed the bipartisan commission, which was formed in 1987.

No worries, Fahrenkopf told me. If it doesn’t work out, “and there’s no place else to go, they may come to us.”

It’s always good to have a fallback plan.

What could go wrong?

Until this week, Trump frequently needled his successor for not agreeing to participate in a debate. Then, on Wednesday, Biden released a video in which he challenged Trump to two debates. “Well, make my day, pal,” Biden mugged. “I’ll even do it twice.”

“So let’s pick the dates, Donald,” Biden continued. “I hear you’re free on Wednesdays,” a quip about the day of the week when there is no court hearing for Trump’s criminal trial on 34 counts of falsifying business records.

Trump bit — after Team Biden had set terms, including an automatic microphone turn-off when a speaker’s time has expired.

Also, there will be no live audience at the high-stakes events.

CNN will host the first debate and ABC will host the second.

The terms seem likely to exclude from the debate stage Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who is running for the White House as an independent. So there you have Big Media shamelessly pushing a third-party candidate out of the field.

“If you’re not part of the debates, you’re not real,” pollster Frank Luntz predicted on CNN. If Kennedy is not part of the debates, “you’re going to see his boat crater as a result.”

Or maybe not. Kennedy says he will exceed the bar with support from at least 15 percent of the electorate and a place on the ballot in enough states that there is a “mathematical chance” of victory.

This election is so ossified that a 70-year-old is the kid in the race.

Biden campaign chair Jen O’Malley Dillon argued in a letter to the commission that the first debate should occur after Trump’s criminal trial is expected to be over and Biden’s return from the G7 summit. The second debate, she added, should fall “early enough to influence early voting, but not so late as to require the candidates to leave the campaign trail in the critical late September and October period.”

I just re-watched the two 2020 Trump-Biden debates, just to see what America might be missing.

Without a teleprompter and on stage for some two hours for each debate, Biden sounded sharper and more authoritative than he does from an East Room podium these days.

Trump was stronger as well — and he talked more about policy than his litany of personal grievances.

If you watch the 2020 exchanges, you feel the profound difference between age 81, Biden’s age now, and a 77-year-old (Biden’s age then and Trump’s age now).

Chances are that neither candidate will do better in June or September than he did four years ago.

Or, as Fahrenkopf offered, “Maybe there won’t be any debates.”

Contact Review-Journal Washington columnist Debra J. Saunders at dsaunders@reviewjournal.com. Follow @debrajsaunders on X.

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