Did you think that assumed Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump‘s acceptance of Bernie Sanders’ offer to debate ahead of the June 7 California primary was just a joke? Guess again! Despite reports that the former’s comments on Jimmy Kimmel Live were made in jest, it appears the two offbeat White House hopefuls will actually go head-to-head in what’s shaping up to be a massive, ratings-heavy television event. What’s more, it appears the televised political discourse-turned-monster truck rally will do what everyone else refused to do for Trump during the official GOP debates in the fall — offer him (and presumably Sanders) millions of dollars as payment. For charity, of course.
Wait, Is This Really Happening?
Early rumblings from CBS News on Thursday dismissed the idea of a Trump/Sanders debate, and Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton scoffed at the idea when MSNBC’s Meet the Press Daily asked her about it: “I don’t think it’s going to happen.” The former Secretary of State echoed her sentiments in another interview on CNN, but as the day progressed, more and more credence was lent to the idea as both camps came to an apparent agreement. Speculation (including our own) hinted at major networks, like talk show host Jimmy Kimmel’s own ABC, being keen on offering money and airtime to the presidential candidates in return for their participation. Sanders all but confirmed these machinations during his Thursday night appearance on Kimmel’s program, telling him that his network was one of the interested parties.
KIMMEL: Have you heard from any of the networks? Has anyone contacted you?
SANDERS: Yeah, your network.
KIMMEL: ABC has contacted you? They did?
SANDERS: Yeah, your boss contacted us… he said you’re fired.
All joking aside, however, Sanders wasn’t kidding. He and Kimmel, who surmised that it could be “one of the highest rated events in television history,” offered clues as to what the spectacle might look like. At one point, Sanders even suggested that “the goal would be to have it in some big stadium here in California.” Kimmel and his audience agreed with a roaring round of applause.
What About Hillary?
As this improbable debate has inched closer to reality in the past 36 hours, the question most asked by pundits is, “What about Hillary?” From CNBC to The Week, political analysts, reporters and anyone willing to add a few more minutes of word vomit to the topic have opined that the debate “would be disastrous” for the Democratic presidential candidate most favored by party delegates. This is entirely possible, as the latest polls pitting Clinton and Sanders against one another in California are becoming increasingly close with 46 percent and 44 percent respectively, according to the Los Angeles Times. The margin of error? A whopping 5.7 percentage points.
What would a Trump/Sanders debate even look like? Kimmel’s team offered one comedic possibility, in which Trump’s speech deliveries were slowed down and Sanders’ oratories were sped up. Yet jokes about ratings and venues seem more like actualities than satire. Sanders — whose campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, told MSNBC it would be “one of the most-watched debates in presidential politics” — specifically used the word “stadium” to describe a possible location.