The commission organizing the second presidential debate in Miami on October 15 said it would have to take place remotely after President Donald Trump tested positive for coronavirus.
President Trump has refused to take part in a virtual TV debate with his Democratic rival Joe Biden.
The president’s refusal sparked a day of wrangling about how and when any further debates would take place.
At the moment it appears a debate could take place on October 22, although in what form remains to be seen.
The first presidential debate on September 29 had descended into insults and interruptions. The vice-presidential debate, held on October 7 between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris, was a far more measured affair.
Latest opinion polls suggest Joe Biden has a high single digit lead nationally, but the outcome is often decided in battleground states where the races can be much closer.
Six million votes have already been cast in early voting.
The Commission on Presidential Debates announced that candidates would take part in the Miami debate “from separate remote locations… to protect the health and safety of all involved”.
This infuriated the president who, in a phone-in interview with Fox Business Channel, said he was “not gonna waste my time” on a virtual debate and “sit behind a computer, ridiculous”.
Joe Biden said the president “changed his mind every second” and his campaign team added that Donald Trump “clearly does not want to face questions from the voters”.
The Trump campaign answered back, with manager Bill Stepien calling the commission’s decision to “rush to Joe Biden’s defense… pathetic” and saying President Trump would hold a rally instead on October 15.
The Biden team then proposed the town-hall style debate, set for Miami, should go ahead on October 22 instead.
This brought a brief moment of agreement, on the date at least.
However, the Trump team said there should be a third face-to-face debate – on October 29, just five days before polling.
The Biden team refused. Three dates had been set for debates – September 29, October 15 and October 22. That would be it.
On October 15, Joe Biden will now take part in his own primetime event on ABC answering questions from voters.
Quite what format any Biden-Trump debate takes now is hard to pin down.
The president touched on a number of key matters, including his health and the possibility of movement towards a stimulus package for the economy.
On his health, President Trump said: “I’m back because I’m a perfect physical specimen.”
He said he had stopped taking most “therapeutics” but was still taking steroids and would be tested for Covid again “soon”.
Although his doctor has said he now has no symptoms, questions still remain about when the president first became infected and whether he could still be contagious.
And although the names of many people who have interacted with the president and tested positive are now known, it remains unclear just how many were exposed at the White House. New Covid safety measures are in place there.
One of the top Republicans, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, said on October 8 that he had not been to the White House since August 6 because its approach to handling Covid with social distancing and masks was “different from mine and what I suggested we do in the Senate”.
October 8, President Trump said that “somebody got in and people got infected” but gave no more details.
A gathering on September 26 announcing President Trump’s Supreme Court pick has been seen as a possible “super-spreader” event, with several attendees known to have tested positive.