What to expect in the first Presidential Debate of 2020

Published: Sep. 29, 2020 at 1:07 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - It’s the eve of the first presidential debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. The two will face off in Cleveland to talk about the issues.

With so much political information we hear each day, our 13abc political analyst says that lots and lots of people already have their minds made up. But two very small groups could make a big impact on Ohio.

“So much is baked in already that there are very few people out there who’s minds can possibly be changed in a debate,” said Bowling Green State University political science professor Melissa Miller.

Dr. Miller says the only likely voters to be swayed by this debate are the small number of undecided voters and those leaning toward a third-party candidate. If those numbers reach 5%, it’ll make a difference in Ohio.

“That very small 2 to 3 percent of undecided voters and those 2 percent now who are preferring a third-party candidate ... Oh my goodness, they could be the ones who pick the winner in the state of Ohio,” said Dr. Miller.

Expect President Trump to be hammered on big issues like the New York Times reporting on his tax returns and his response to COVID-19. Ohio Republican leaders are confident in his response.

“He’s going to have to address his COVID response and I think he did a fantastic job. Whether it was shutting down the borders to China and Europe and Operation Warp Speed and the likelihood we’ll have a vaccine that is going to be safe and effective,” said Jane Timken, chairwoman of the Ohio Republican Party.

Former Vice President Biden is expected to face scrutiny about his son Hunter’s work on an energy board in Ukraine and his physical and mental health. Supporters hope he articulates his COVID-19 plans and health care plans.

“I think just continuing the cohesive message about how we’re going to deal with this pandemic which brought us here today. The attacks on the affordable care act don’t just have impact on people’s health but it has an impact on people’s livelihood,” said Shontel Brown, chairwoman of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party.

Tuesday’s winner will probably be in the eye of the beholder. Dr. Miller says team Trump will focus on its base and sure up 2016 voters. For team Biden, make no major gaffes and hold steady to leads some polling shows.

“Who wins a debate from a strategic perspective is who accomplished their goals,” said Dr. Miller.

Several polls are showing Biden with a slight lead nationwide with a very small margin in Ohio. Republican leaders say those polls typical under-sample Republicans and are likely to be wrong as so many polls were in 2016.

We do know for sure some of the topics Tuesday: The Trump and Biden records, the Supreme Court, COVID-19, the economy, race and violence in our cities, and the integrity of the election.

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