What happens next if President pulls out of next presidential debate

Published: Oct. 8, 2020 at 5:54 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - President Donald Trump says he will not participate in a virtual debate after the Commission on Presidential Debates announced the next one between he and former Vice President Joe Biden would be a virtual one.

What do all these moves surrounding debates mean for the candidates? If the President refuses to participate, does it hurt him? Our 13abc political analyst weighs in.

Much of this discussion comes down to how much of an impact these debates have. After the messy parts of the first one, how many people might actually be watching and paying attention?

13abc spoke with Doctor Melissa Miller of Bowling Green State University. She says so many people have already made up their mind in this race. She estimates only about 2-5% of the voters in swing states like Ohio are still undecided.

Are the debates probably aren’t changing any minds? Doctor Miller says they’re more just reaffirming people’s beliefs. Already millions of people have already cast early ballots.

What Dr. Miller sees, if the President pulls out, is a perception problem when it comes to strength. While he may not like the virtual format the consequence may be worse.

“One of the things the President has been most concerned about and most Presidents are is that they appear strong. If the Biden team starts to paint the President as too cowardly or weak I would expect them to paint any presidential decision to skip the next debate as somehow weak, the President might realize it’s in his best interest to participate,” said Miller.

There is some precedent for virtual debates. Richard Nixon and John Kennedy were in two locations in 1960.

Doctor Miller says debates and the decisions about how candidates handle them always comes down to the candidates deciding what will be better for them politically.

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