The Final Debate: Low Expectations And High Viewership

A communication studies scholar says people will tune in for the “train wreck” even if most have already decided who to vote for.

By Rhonda Fanning & Shelly BrisbinOctober 22, 2020 10:50 am, ,

President Donald Trump and his challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, will meet Thursday night in Nashville for the second and final presidential debate.

Richard Pineda is director of the Sam Donaldson Center for Communication Studies at the University of Texas at El Paso. He told Texas Standard it’s likely that most voters have decided who to support in the election, but that many will still tune in to see how their candidate does. 

“Tonight’s debate is probably one of incredibly low stakes, but one with heightened expectations,” Pineda said. “I think we are going to tune in even though we know who we are voting for.”

Even with rule changes, including the muting of microphones when the other candidate is speaking, Pineda said viewers will watch, expecting fireworks.

“I think when you get an invitation to a train wreck, it’s very hard to avoid sitting front row, and I think that’s what America gets tonight,” Pineda said.

The candidates are expected to be asked about COVID-19, energy and the environment and race. But Pineda expects Trump to focus on his allegations against Biden’s son Hunter and on the performance of the economy prior to the pandemic.

Biden is expected to do well, Pineda said, based on his performance in last week’s town hall event. 

“The issue in front of the vice president is don’t take the bait on Hunter Biden, and stick to the same message – COVID-19, COVID-19, COVID-19.”

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