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CNN and Democratic officials announced on Tuesday that “at the request of the campaigns and out of an abundance of caution,” the Democratic debate in Phoenix on Sunday between Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Senator Bernie Sanders would be a significantly pared-down affair.

The live audience — whose jeers and cheers can be a major variable for the candidates onstage — will be missing. Instead, Mr. Biden and Mr. Sanders will debate each other in an empty theater, joined only by a handful of moderators and television crew members.

The spin room, where campaign aides scramble after the debate to declare their candidates a winner in front of packs of deadline-addled reporters, is scrapped as well, along with the media filing center, the often-cavernous space where hundreds of political reporters gather to watch the television broadcast and write their reports.

The Democratic National Committee, which oversees the debates, said Arizona officials had told them the event “could proceed as planned.” But the party said it wanted to take additional measures to ensure “the safety of our staff, campaigns, Arizonans and all those involved in the debate,” a party spokeswoman, Xochitl Hinojosa, said in a statement.

The debate, scheduled for 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday, was expected to follow a town hall-style format, where the candidates would respond to some questions posed by voters. CNN said that, at the moment, there were no plans to modify the format.

A prime-time debate with no in-house audience would be a highly unusual moment in the age of mass media campaigns, although it hearkens back to earlier days when presidential debates occurred in the privacy of closed television studios.

Mr. Sanders and Mr. Biden both called off primary night campaign events Tuesday as they awaited the results of voting in six states.

Reporting was contributed by Elaine Yu, Amy Qin, Alan Rappeport, Emily Cochrane, Sheri Fink, Mike Baker and Benjamin Mueller.

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