Political analyst: presidential debates still relevant despite early voting

First of three debates airs Tuesday night
Published: Sep. 29, 2020 at 5:00 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden are making final preparations for their first presidential debate.

It comes against the backdrop of an unprecedented number of people voting early due to the pandemic.

Presidential debates have a long history in America’s election process.

“There weren’t a lot of people who could tell you the difference between the two political parties,” said Institute for Public Policy and Social Research director Matt Grossmann.

Tuesday is the first of three debates between President Trump and former Vice President Biden, which is after many people have voted.

In Michigan, 2.39 million absentee ballots were sent to voters last week. Many are already returned to their local clerk.

Grossman said people shouldn’t expect long lines of people trying to spoil their ballot Wednesday.

“The debates are unlikely to change most people’s views of the candidates because those are settled to a much bigger degree than they have in the past,” said Grossmann.

In a severely divided political climate, views on the debates are just as split.

Many people on the WILX Facebook page commented to say there’s no point in watching the debate because people are already voting.

“I’ve got a lot of friends that have theirs. Mine is sitting at home on my desk just waiting,” said Juan Sanchez, who doesn’t plan to watch the debate.

Others said the debate likely won’t change who they plan to vote for, but they will look at the debates as a way to get to know the candidates.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing the candidates in real time, unadulterated and seeing how they will perform to answer the questions,” said Paul Strom, who plans to watch the debate.

Grossmann said debates are usually aimed at people who still haven’t decided who they are voting for.

“Most people who are voting this early in an election are pretty clear on who they are going to vote for. You don’t have undecided voters deciding to vote early,” he said.

Grossman said he doesn’t see debate schedules changing in the future because of early voting.

2020 Presidential Debate Schedule:

- Sept. 29, 2020 First presidential debate, Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, OH

- Oct. 7, 2020 Vice presidential debate, The University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT

- Oct. 15, 2020 Second presidential debate, Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, Miami, FL

- Oct. 22, 2020 Third presidential debate, Belmont University, Nashville, TN

Copyright 2020 WILX. All rights reserved.

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