PHOENIX (NEWSnet/AP) — The Commission on Presidential Debates, which has hosted presidential debates during every election cycle since 1988, has an uncertain future given that candidates are bypassing them this year for events hosted by major news organizations.

The Biden and Trump campaigns announced a deal Wednesday to meet for debates in June on CNN and September on ABC.

Just a day earlier, Frank Fahrenkopf, chair of the Commission on Presidential Debates, had sounded optimistic that the candidates would eventually come around to accepting the commission’s debates.

“There’s no way you can force anyone to debate,” Fahrenkopf said. But he noted candidates have repeatedly discussed skipping debates or finding alternatives before eventually showing up. The only cancellation so far during the commission’s run was one of the events during the 2020 election cycle, which was complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In reaching an agreement independently, the Biden and Trump campaigns sidelined a commission that aims to set neutral rules and provide a forum that is simultaneously broadcast on all major networks.

But the commission suggested in a statement Wednesday that it would not immediately drop its plans for its series of four events hosted at college and university campuses.

The Biden and Trump campaigns had both been critical of the commission’s logistics for this year, including the fact that some of its meetup dates after voters in some states could vote in early cycles or absentee.

Fahrenkopf defended the importance of television debates in general.

“You learn a lot about the personality of the candidate,” Fahrenkopf said. “Not only where they stand on the issues but how they conduct themselves and how you feel about how they conduct themselves.”

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