The groundwork is being laid on the left for former Vice President Joseph R. Biden to skip the presidential debates, but former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said Sunday that the presumptive 2020 Democratic nominee needs to take the stage.
Leading the calls for Mr. Biden to drop out is former Clinton White House spokesman Joe Lockhart, who tweeted Sunday that debating President Trump is like “debating the last drunk in a bar at closing time.”
Mr. Huckabee countered that “Joe’s got to show up,” even though he said Mr. Trump, a well-known teetotaler, would be a formidable debate opponent.
“If I were Joe Biden, I’d want to stay off the stage. There’s no way he can stand on the stage with President Trump and survive,” said Mr. Huckabee on “Fox & Friends.”
Mr. Lockhart, who also served previously as spokesman for the NFL, said Saturday it was “worth the risk” for Mr. Biden to drop out of the debates, alleging that Mr. Trump is “incapable of telling the truth,” which Mr. Huckabee dismissed as an excuse.
“It’s just a way of trying to justify Joe [Biden] pulling out of the debates because they know that it would be a cratering moment for him,” said Mr. Huckabee.
The three presidential debates are scheduled to take place between Sept. 29 and Oct. 22, but Mr. Lockhart said that it would be “a fool’s errand to enter the ring with someone who can’t follow the rules or the truth”
“He will take the truth and destroy it,” Mr. Lockhart said on CNN. “Biden will be in the position of correcting him over and over and over again. I don’t think he should give him that platform.”
Also advising Mr. Biden to skip the debates are former Hillary Clinton senior adviser Zac Petkanas, who tweeted last week that Mr. Trump is not a “legitimate candidate,” and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who said last month that Mr. Biden should only debate if Mr. Trump releases his 2016-18 tax returns and agrees to a real-time fact-check.
Mr. Huckabee disagreed, saying “you can’t run for president, you can’t be president and just say, let me know when this is all over because right now I’m in the hidey-hole, I plan to stay there until this all blows over.”
“It doesn’t work like that,” he said. “So yeah, he’s got to show up, and if he doesn’t, if he chickens out of the debate and refus
es to go to the stage with President Trump, then I think it really hurts him.”
Debating @realDonaldTrump is like debating the last drunk in a bar at closing time. Anybody ever win one of those debates. We built a wall and Mexico paid for it. We’ve beaten the invisible enemy. Nobody’s been tougher on Russia. Get me one more drink bartender.
— Joe Lockhart (@joelockhart) August 2, 2020