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Political analyst discusses how candidates can benefit from final debate

Donald Trump, Joe Biden
Posted at 8:45 AM, Oct 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-22 08:45:09-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — According to many, the first presidential debate was an embarrassment. The second was unconventional, with a separate town hall for each candidate. Now the American people are left with a final traditional debate Thursday night. But will it move the needle forward for either candidate?

University of Kentucky Political Science Professor Dr. Stephen Voss said it is unlikely, especially given the way elections are panning out in 2020.

"These debates usually don't matter, and it would be astonishing if this last debate could be a game-changer," he said. "All the more so because this time, the debates [are] taking place after many Americans have already voted, so they can't change their vote even if they want to do so."

But in the same breath, Voss also said the "embarrassing" first debate may have made a splash.

"The fact of the first debate caused a measurable shift in public opinion is the strange thing," he said. "That's not what we've seen in previous presidential elections, and you know, if the numbers stay the way they are now that first presidential debate this year may go down in history as a rare case of when these high-profile events, actually change things."

Voss explained those changes were detrimental to President Donald Trump's campaign.

"Not only did we see some backlash against him in the polls, some of that splash damage spread collaterally to other Republicans running for the Senate," he said. "For him to be able to come into this debate and look different from the Donald Trump of the last debate could undo some of the damage."

Many analysts think Thursday night's debate is bound to take a different turn than the first debate as a new rule was implemented allowing the moderator to mute the microphone of the candidate who does not have the floor.

"I've long wondered why moderators are unable to control the flow of talk," Voss said "The first presidential debate only took that problem of candidates talking over each other to an extreme degree. It's a behavior now that we see regularly in our talk shows. It's a behavior we see regularly and in society people not listening to each other and interrupting each other. Maybe it's no surprise it bled into, into presidential debates, too."

From Voss' perspective, the candidates need to focus less on policy Thursday night and more on their personalities.

"Really [if] a candidate [were] to get out there and start spouting plans or that they have a plan for this and that, they're already telling most voters, 'I'm not like you,'" he said.

The final presidential debate will air on NBC News Thursday night at 8:30 with coverage beginning at 8:00 p.m. LEX 18 will also stream the debate on Lex18.com, on the LEX 18 Facebook Page as well as on the LEX 18 Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Android TV apps.