BY MOSES MATENGA

UNITED STATES Presidential candidates’ debate is key in elections as it provides an opportunity for the electorate to make informed decisions and allow candidates to reach out to the electorate, an international expert has said.

Speaking in a Foreign Press Center Virtual Reporting Tour on the role of the U.S. Presidential debates, Dr Mitchell McKinney, PhD, Professor of Communications, University of Missouri said: “So, debates have shown their ability to reach that very small slice of the undecideds, uncommitted, the persuadables. And of that group consistently 3% to 4% will come out of viewing debates, again, 3% or 4% of 87 million claiming that they have now committed, they now know who they’re going to vote for.”

“And one thing we know about debate viewers is they are more likely to show up and vote if they’re going to commit the time to watch a debate. So, when the race is close enough again, in battleground states, and there are enough undecided voters, then the debate I think, can be consequential, even consequential in the outcome of an election.”

November 3 has been set as Election Day in the US with incumbent and Republican Donald Trump taking on Democratic Party’s Joe Biden who was former President Barack Obama’s deputy.

The next President of the United States will formally be elected in December 2020 by the 538 members of the Electoral College.

Trump and his challenger Biden fiercely clashed on Tuesday in what observers described as one of the most chaotic and bitter White House debates in years.

Trump in most cases interrupted Biden who angrily told him to shut up in a debate that touched COVID-19, healthcare and the economy.

McKinney, who spoke before the debate was held, had predicted high stakes in the debate.

He said candidates should use the debate platforms to speak to their supporters.

“On the debate stage voters see this as a credible form of information. Now, that credibility that voters point to the debate message I think is driven largely by the fact that candidates are not in control of this message. Candidates show up without notes, without teleprompter, without their aids around them. They don’t know what questions are going to be put to them.”

“And so, therefore I think that leads to this notion of getting the real, or the authentic candidate, which although there is issue discussion, and there is issue learning from the debate, the greatest form of learning or the impression that debates lead is on candidate’s character or image of how they react to one another, how they respond, how they deal with attacks.”

He said as a result of COVID-19 pandemic that has killed close to a million worldwide, there has been a new way to have the 2020 debates.

“They will stay separated. The town hall, the citizens will be much fewer and will be separated as well. And so, all of these, the safety precautions that we’ve come to know that are driven by COVID-19. I think the debate commission is trying to replicate those in the debate environment on the debate stage.”

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