By Whitney Moran, Staff Writer
The Commission on Presidential Debates canceled the second presidential debate on Friday, Oct. 9 after President Donald Trump refused to participate in a virtual debate. The debate was originally planned to take place in person on Oct. 15, but the Commission decided it would be held online upon Trump’s Covid-19 diagnosis.
“I feel as if that the cancellation of the debate was simply a strategic move by Trump and his campaign team since after the last debate, many viewer polls favored Biden,” sophomore psychology major Jessica Day said. “I think that this was the right move for him and his team to make because of the results of the last debate. However, I feel as if it is not fair to American people in this confusing time in history.”
Political science professor Jeremy Buchman believes that not having a real debate benefits Trump’s campaign because although he is trailing behind Biden in polls, he has less tactful debate skills than Biden.
“In one sense, the cancellation is surprising, since usually candidates who are trailing in the polls want more debates, either to maintain their visibility or to create more opportunities for their opponents to stumble and thus change the tenor of the race,” Buchman said. “But President Trump has no trouble getting attention whenever he wants it, and the town hall format of the second debate is one that’s especially ill-suited to him. In town halls, he’d have to interact with ordinary people, and he’d look even more obnoxious if he tried to talk over his opponent’s answers. It’s also a format that’s well-suited to former Vice President Biden. The president’s greatest fear is looking weak. The problem for him is that both options run the risk of making him look weak, especially if his health is worse than he’s letting on. Cancelling creates the appearance of ducking a fight and raising health speculations. But debating and performing poorly doesn’t serve him well either.”
Sports management major and senior Eddie McQuade thinks that canceling the debate was unfortunate but necessary for the health of Trump.
“I understand a couple weeks ago President Trump unfortunately tested positive for the coronavirus, so cancelling the debate was for everyone’s safety,” McQuade said. “I’m not sure how Trump is doing right now but it looks like he’s doing very well and should fully recover along with the First Lady. I would have rather seen them debate [but] if one candidate isn’t healthy enough than there’s not much we can do.”
McQuade hopes that there will be another debate before the election and urges those who are able to vote to watch them.
“I’m not sure if they’re going to debate again before the election but if they are, I will make sure I watch it and everyone who can vote should too,” he said. “However, the moderators have been absolutely atrocious and I would recommend hiring a non biased TV show host to just simply ask the questions and tell them times up.”
Day thinks that having a debate virtually would be an effective way to have a debate that prevents the candidates or attendees from contracting the coronavirus.
“I think that the virtual format that they originally planned on utilizing would have been a perfectly reasonable way for the candidates to get their views across and communicate with the American people considering the entire country has had to adjust to virtual meetings and differently formatted lifestyle,” she said.
Buchman is a fan of the virtual town hall format. “A town hall could work very well in a virtual format,” he said. “To me, it’s not that different from all of those TV interviews that Trump scrambles to get.”
With the election less than a month away, voters could have been making a decision based on the debates. However, Buchman argues that voters should know their decision by now.
“I’m really not sure what else we need to see at this point,” he said. “It’s astonishing to me that any voter might not have made up their mind one way or the other. With early voting already having started in many states, the pool of voters who are up for grabs, which was never that large to begin with, is shrinking as we speak. I guess I’d like the Commission on Presidential Debates not to be added to the long list of American institutions that Trump has broken.”
Biden and Trump both hosted individual town hall forums on Oct. 15 instead of the combined town hall debate.