DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – While President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden won’t debate Thursday night, there’s plenty of debate over what they’re doing instead: their own in-person town hall meetings televised by competing networks simultaneously.
Val Martinez, a UNT Political Science Professor, said it’s a disappointing outcome.
“I think it’s unfortunately a very perfect reflection of where our country is today,” said Martinez. “We’re so polarized, everyone is in their silos of information, so they don’t listen to each other.”
But Martinez said she doesn’t believe it will have a long term impact on Presidential debates. “You saw how the Vice Presidential debates went just fine. I think that in the future, it will depend on the personalities of who the candidates are. But as long as they are collegial, agreeable, they recognize the symbolic importance of these debates, then I would expect them to go on.”
Ben Voth, SMU Debate Professor expressed doubts.
“I hope this isn’t the beginning of the end of direct debates between presidential candidates. But again, it’s not legally required. It’s not in the Constitution. I mean, they could devolve and dissolve. And then I think that would be sad,” said Voth.
The town halls became a reality after the Commission on Presidential Debates turned the scheduled in-person debate for Thursday night into a virtual event because the President had the coronavirus.
The Trump campaign didn’t want a virtual event and cancelled.
ABC set up the Biden town hall, then NBC scheduled the Trump town hall, after verifying he tested negative for the virus.
Voth said, “I’ve never, in all my years of 25 years of watching these things, seen something like this happen.”
He said even though there are a relative few undecided voters at this point, the candidates still need to have a good night.
Voth said Biden needs to hold onto his lead in the national polls.
“He needs to show that he’s effective by himself. I think that in some ways he prospered from the aggression of Trump in debate one, it’s just going to be him tonight. He’s got to stay energetic and sort of strong.”
As for the President, Voth said Trump must have a different strategy from the first debate.
“Show himself to be sufficiently genteel, you know, not rude to any of the audience members,” he said. “I think he also needs to demonstrate that he’s, like, fully recovered from COVID like to look robust and healthy, and people don’t feel like you know, he’s still maybe hiding some sort of effects of the illness.”
The President and former Vice President are still set to debate each other next Thursday night in Nashville.