It’s possible that there will not be any debates between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. He will claim that they are rigged against him and unfair and therefore he won’t play.
The requirement is simple: get out of the debates, make them not happen without seeming to be the one who’s running away or tanking them. Here’s how. I suspect Trump will start claiming that that the process is “rigged” because Gary Johnson and Jill Stein aren’t included. For better or worse (I think better), the debate commission rules are crystal clear: You need to hit 15% support in a certain number of major polls to be included. It’s highly unlikely Johnson will meet that threshold; it’s almost impossible that Stein will. Inclusion over exclusion has an inherent logic to it even if it’s obviously self-serving and not appropriate in this case. So I think Trump will find this a comfortable position from which to attack the debates themselves.
The real reason is that Mr. Trump, in a rare moment of clarity, knows that he’ll get his clock cleaned by Hillary Clinton in a one-on-one debate. Unlike the primary debates, which were basically joint press conferences (and pecker contests), he will be answering tough questions from moderators who will not ask him about silly things such as hand size or favorite Pokemon characters. He will be on stage with Hillary Clinton, who has proved to be a strong debater and not easily distracted by antics, which, as we have seen, only make Mr. Trump more of a caricature than he already is.
The debates may yet happen, but I wouldn’t bet on it.