Political expert talks about what to expect at the first 2020 Presidential Debate

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – Tonight, President Donald Trump will go up against Democratic challenger Joe Biden in one of the most polarizing elections in our nation’s history.

The debate will be 90 minutes long and divided into six 15-minute segments that moderator Chris Wallace has chosen. Both candidates will face a range of questions from COVID-19 to the Supreme Court vacancy to race and violence in our cities.

While it’s expected to be one of the most watched debates, due to COVID-19, most people will be watching from home. For the first time, there won’t be a large audience and experts say that could change the way the public sees the candidates.

Darrell West, the Vice President and Director of Governance Studies at Brookings and former political science professor at Brown University, says the first debate is most important.

“It’s going to be a chaotic next 5 weeks,” West said. “A lot of negativity, a lot of attack ads, a lot of rumors and innuendos. But, people still have to try to cut through the noise, figure out how the policies affect them and figure out which candidate shares their point of view.”

There will no hand shakes or opening remarks and audiences will remain small.

“Audiences affect how people see the debate,” West said. “If someone has a great line and the audience is clapping wildly, the press picks up on that. This debate will be different in really not having an audience. I think that will change the way the public sees the two candidates.”

West says for Trump to win, he will attack Biden and raise his negatives. For Biden to win, he needs to focus on healthcare.

“Trump has set a low bar for Biden because he constantly criticizes him for being too extreme and not up to the job,” West said. “So, all Biden has to do is come across as nice and reasonable and competent and he will eviscerate Trump’s attacks on him.”

While most voters have already made up their minds, he says it’s a chance for the candidates to gain the trust of those undecided and to sway those not 100%.

“90-percent of voters have made up their minds,” West said. “So the number of undecided voters is very small at this point. I think what people are looking for is a sense of each of these individuals, where they want to take America. We know there are sharp differences between Republicans and Democrats right now. For people who have seen almost 4 years of the Trump presidency and haven’t made up their mind, they have to look for some information that will sway them one way or another.”

The debate starts at 9 p.m. and will run for 90 minutes straight.

First Presidential Debate Tonight: Will You Be Watching?


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