Trump Commits to Debates as He, Clinton Promise More Access
Donald Trump committed to taking part in all three scheduled debates with Hillary Clinton as the two presidential candidates promised greater media access in the final stretch of the campaign.
On the same day that the Democratic nominee debuted a campaign plane that includes space for reporters who travel with her, Trump for the first time invited a small group of media representatives for a question-and-answer session on his private jet as he departed Cleveland on Monday.
"I expect to do all three debates,'' the Republican nominee said. "I think it's an important element of what we're doing.''
Trump had previously hedged on his participation in the presidential debates, citing the need for impartial moderators.
The first debate is set for Sept. 26 at Hofstra University on Long Island. Clinton has held a consistent lead over Trump in national and battleground polls since the Democratic convention in July, though it has narrowed in recent weeks after a steady drumbeat of reports about her use of private e-mail and about the Clinton family foundation. The debate may determine whether Trump can overcome Clinton's wide advantage in fundraising and organization, and close in on her in the final weeks of the race.
Trump and Clinton now are locked in a close competition for votes in a less than a dozen states that will determine the outcome of the Nov. 8 election. The two candidates crossed paths at Cleveland's Hopkins International Airport Monday, the first of the stops that they or their surrogates were making in Ohio on the Labor Day holiday.
After spending the final weeks of August largely out of the public eye and focused on fundraising, Clinton is giving full attention to campaigning this week, with stops planned Monday in Cleveland and the Quad Cities area on the Illinois-Iowa border, and in Florida and North Carolina later in the week. After leaving Cleveland for Youngstown, Ohio, on Monday, Trump is set to campaign in the swing states of Virginia, North Carolina and Florida later this week. Both candidates are scheduled to appear in succession on the same stage Wednesday at a forum on national security and military issues.
Monday was the first trip for the aircraft that will carry Clinton, her staff and the reporters covering her campaign through Election Day. It's a step toward more media access to Clinton, who hasn't held a formal press conference since December and has only once taken questions from the media organizations who travel with her since the end of primaries. Nominees have traditionally shared a plane with the media following the party conventions.
Although the Trump campaign has indicated there are no plans to put reporters on the same plane as the candidate and have refused credentials to some reporters who Trump views has being unfair, the Republican nominee said Monday he occasionally may allow media to travel with him.
"I don't have a problem with it,'' he said before leaving Cleveland for his next event in Youngstown. "It doesn't have to be all the time, but it could like today.''
Clinton, briefly spoke to reporters traveling on her aircraft before leaving for Cleveland, telling them, "I am so happy to have all of you with me." Clinton also sat for an interview with ABC News that is scheduled for broadcast on Tuesday.
Trump was in Cleveland with his running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence. Clinton's surrogates were out in force as well, with vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine joining her in Cleveland after appearing with Vice President Joe Biden in Pittsburgh. Former President Bill Clinton campaigned for his wife in Detroit and later in Cincinnati, Ohio.