All eyes on Biden, Trump: Local professors weigh in ahead of first presidential debate

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Washington County, Tenn. (WJHL) – Tuesday night, President Donald Trump and Democratic party nominee, Joe Biden will take the stage in Cleveland, Ohio for the first of three presidential debates.

This debate has been long-awaited by the American people seeing as neither has debated a candidate from the opposing party in years. There has been mud-slinging along the campaign trail as well as recent revelations in this election.

The president tweeted out earlier this week in preparation for the debate demanding Joe Biden take a drug test prior to stepping on stage, stating he would take one as well. Biden denied this request.

In terms of the Trump campaign, a recent article by the New York Times states President Trump has not been paying his taxes, which is expected to be one of the main topics discussed Tuesday night.

As far as other topics of discussion, the recent protests regarding race and police brutality will take center stage as well as the handling of the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump’s nomination to the Supreme Court, and the status of the American economy.

While these debates can vary in the amount of viewership, Heather Evans, a professor at UVA-Wise believes all eyes will be on this debate, not only because it’s the first one, but because this has been a closely watched race.

President Trump expressed concerns regarding the first debate being held after select states have already started early voting, but Evans doesn’t believe that will be an issue. She said those who vote early usually have their mind made up way in advance as to who they are voting for and watching the debate likely will not change that opinion.

Evans believes all eyes will be on this debate just based off the fact that it’s the first one and since we’re in the pandemic, she believes people at home may just turn on the TV to see what happens. She also said she has seen a lot of discussion regarding the debate already on social media.

As far as a discussion for UVA-Wise students, they will be hosting a virtual watch party that can be followed by using the hashtag #UVAWisePolSci.

Another virtual watch party will be happening via Zoom for Tusculum political science students, according to Dr. Mary Cooper, Tusculum University Assoc. Professor of Political Science and director of the Honors program.

From nationwide protests to the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent supreme court nomination, all of those topics are expected to be touched on indefinitely in Tuesday night’s debate. However, in the first of these three debates, there seems to be less focus on what will be discussed, but rather how it will be discussed.

“Trump has painted Biden as a weak candidate or that he might be a little senile so everybody is going to be watching to see is Biden a strong debater? How does he do up against Trump and then how does Trump respond to any kind of information that Biden gives,” said UVA-Wise Professor of Political Science, Heather Evans.

Dr. Cooper also weighed in on her thoughts of the hot topics that will be covered in Tuesday’s debate, one being the matter of mail-in ballots this election cycle.

Early voting is underway already in a few states with many people already casting their ballots prior to hearing the candidates going head to head. The topic of how people are voting by mail this election is already being debated.

“There has been a lot of concern about will the post office be able to deliver absentee ballots,” said Tusculum University Associate Professor of Political Science, Dr. Mary Cooper.

According to Dr. Cooper, this debate will play an important role for those still undecided in this election. “6% of voters are still making up their minds so those are the ones who will be sure to tune in Tuesday,” said Dr. Cooper.

However, for others who have already made up their minds, watching the debate will only further solidify their choice for president.

“It’s going to 1. confirm what a lot of American voters already believe about the respective candidates on both sides of the aisle,” said ETSU Professor of History, Daryl A. Carter.

Despite the ongoing pandemic, groups are still planning watch parties.

The student Conservative Coalition at ETSU will be hosting their watch party at the Carnegie Hotel in Johnson City starting at 9 p.m.

The group’s president, Nathan Boccarossa released this statement regarding their watch party:

“Students involved with the Conservative Coalition at ETSU have been anticipating
seeing President Trump on the debate stage with Democratic challenger, Joe Biden. Thus, we
decided to organize a debate watch party for students involved with the club who want to see
the two frontrunners go “toe-to-toe”.

We sent out a flyer asking students to RSVP for the event so that we know how many seats to fill. Based on our RSVP estimate, we expect roughly 30 or more members to turn out.

The watch party will take place at the Carnegie at 9 pm in the Wilder Dining Hall. We
expect individuals to be wearing their masks and keeping in mind “social distancing” standards.
With that being said, we hope that a lot of people turn out to watch the debate. Many of us
believe that this is a very crucial election for this country, so we are delighted to see many
students take interest in the debates.”

No matter who you’re voting for, professor Daryl Carter told News Channel 11 what truly matters is that you get out and vote. “As a country, there’s a lot of healing that needs to take place, and regardless of what these two men do tonight, the American people need to take it upon themselves to be a part of the solution and not the problem,” said Carter.

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