Local political science professor breaks down presidential debate

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FILE – In this combination of file photos, former Vice President Joe Biden, left, speaks in Wilmington, Del., on March 12, 2020, and President Donald Trump speaks at the White House in Washington on April 5, 2020. Some of the country’s major sports betting companies are running contests in which participants predict things that will happen or be said during the presidential debate, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, for the chance to win money. (AP Photo/File)

TRI-CITIES, Tenn. (WJHL) — Tuesday night kicked off the first 2020 presidential debate between Republican nominee President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

A political science professor at King University, Gail Helt, spoke with News Channel 11 midway through the debate that marks the first of three.

Q: Give us your initial thoughts on tonight’s presidential debate thus far.

A: “I think that both Biden and Trump went into this trying to appeal to totally different groups of people, obviously. I think Biden is trying to appeal to the few undecided voters who remain, and I think Trump was trying to make an appeal to his base to sure them up so they’re not leaving. There’s been a pretty significant number of Republican defections to the Biden camp recently. It’s been in the news. If those two audiences are who the each side wanted to reach, I think they were both successful. I think Biden because he was talking about substances. He was trying to get in between Trump’s interruptions — he was trying to get in talking about what he would do for health care and climate change and all of those things. That’s what independent voters want to hear. The Trump camp spent all day trying to lower expectations for Trump and put some stumbling blocks in the road for Biden about Biden not allowing inspection of ear pieces, Biden wanting bathroom breaks — trying to make [Biden] seem like he was old and feeble. Biden blew those things out of the water. He definitely proved that there is no concern about his cognitive abilities or his ability to be President of the United States. So, I think in that respect, Biden came out ahead. On the Trump side, his core supporters love a lot of that rhetoric — they like him to be a bully, for him to be a little bit abrasive, for him to be a little bit in people’s faces, and he definitely came through with that tonight. I think his core supporters who he was trying to sure up will also be happy with his performance.”

Q: Do you think either candidate for the 2020 presidential election won the debate?

A: “Keep in mind that I said Trump was trying to appeal to his core supporters. Those are people who are already in his camp. If Biden’s appeal to independence is successful — and I think given his performance it will be — then technically I think Biden emerges the winner here simply because he’s going to be able to bring in new voters and a new support base even though the numbers may be small because I don’t believe there are a lot of undecided voters out there right now. But I think in that regard, Biden probably comes out the winner here simply for that reason. I also think Trump honestly did him a little bit of a favor by being a little bit pushy and trying to over-talk him because there were some questions that Trump started to ask about Biden, like court-packing for example, but because Trump wouldn’t let him answer, Biden was kind of able to evade those questions and not go there. I don’t think that those questions would’ve made a difference to the independent voters that he was going to reach because I think Biden has already answered those in other media events. At the same time, Trump did not do himself any favor there. I think by a little bit here Biden comes out ahead, but I don’t think Trump’s going to lose voters.”

Q: What do you think viewers should be looking for in the next debate?

A: “I would expect that Trump’s going to get a lot of push back based on his performance. I think that will come across as a little too abrasive, especially when Biden didn’t return in kind very often. I think that his advisors are going to tell [Trump] that he needs to back off and show some empathy, show some respect to Biden and to the moderator. I think that that’s going to happen, and I think that Trump will probably at least try to take a different approach in debate two. It’s going to be about foreign policy, if memory serves me correctly, and I think that that’s going to advantage Biden a little bit because he’s going to have decades of experience on foreign policy, so that’s going to help [Biden] out. I don’t know…It’s definitely going to be interesting.”

The next presidential debates are scheduled to go underway on Oct. 15 and Oct. 22.

The vice presidential debate will be held on Oct. 7.

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