The impact of Presidential Debates
Bottom Line: In a year and cycle unlike any other – which included questions as to if one of the Presidential candidates would even show up to debate – today is the day. Joe Biden and Donald Trump will debate in what is scheduled to be the first of three presidential debates and one Vice-Presidential debate.
Here’s what the Presidential debate schedule looks like:
- September 29th - Cleveland: Moderated by Fox News anchor Chris Wallace
- October 7th - Vice Presidential Debate Salt Lake City: Moderated by USA Today’s Susan Page
- October 15th - Miami: Moderated by C-SPAN's Steve Scully
- October 22nd - Nashville: Moderated by NBC co-anchor Kristen Welker
Notably, seven states: Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia and Wyoming have already started early voting and several more states like ours which has begun the vote by mail process. Voting timelines could play a role because history suggests debates do matter in close elections. In the polling age here’s the range of impact in the polls the first Presidential debate has had one week later:
- Bush vs. Clinton 1992: 0.6%
- Obama vs. Romney 2012: 5%
The average impact has been 2.6%. The bottom line is that while there aren’t many undecided or truly independent voters this late in cycles (generally 8% or fewer), those who truly are on the fence do look to debates and they do have an impact. Given the significance of this election and the intrigue factor associated with Biden and Trump debating – the stakes are high and mostly for Biden. If he can prove he can go toe-to-toe with Trump for three rounds at an hour and a half each – he could stand to benefit. If he can’t - it could be a crushing blow to his candidacy. They should be interesting.