Monday, May 20, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: TV Debates Could Be The Key

As the date of the first Democratic presidential TV debate
approaches, it is becoming clear how this event might likely be key
to the initial sorting out by voters of the overlarge candidate field.

As now scheduled, the debate will take place in Florida on June 26
and 27 with as many as ten candidates on the stage for each night.

There are 24 “major” candidates now declared and actively
running, and most of them have, or will be, qualified for that
debate, resulting in some candidates being left off the stage even
if they have qualified.

Since  appearing in the first evening or the second evening of
debate, a certain unintended consequence will happen --- that is,
the chance impact of which candidates appear together.

What if, by the luck of the draw, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders
appear the same night? Or if they appear on different nights?
What if Pete Buttigieg and Robert “Beto” O’Rourke are on he
same night? Or different nights? What if Kamal Harris and
Elizabeth Warren share the stage? Or don’t?  Which current
underdogs will appear on which night, and in what combinations?

These questions don’t cover all the factors of how the public will
respond to the debaters, but it is an important unpredictable
element --- because TV debates often work significantly in
the viewer perception of contrasts between the skills and
personalities of the participants.

As the DNC has ruled, the determination of who will appear
on which night will be by chance, not by standing in the polls or
money raised.

Debate skill and projection of personality will also be important
factors. But if chance also determines who appears on which night
of the second debate the following month, voter sentiment might
remain undefined, and the large field might be at least partly
preserved into the new year and the first primaries.

This is the crux of the big question now, a month before the first
debate, about the nature of the Democratic contest --- will the
nominee be determined early, or in the primaries, or at the

A consequential question is whether or not the timing of selecting
the Democratic nominee matters to the ultimate outcome in
November. That question is obviously open to debate, and cannot
be answered now.

But with the Democratic Party apparently so divided on policies
(if not ideology), the potential of the TV debates to create voter
attitudes and enthusiasm or opposition remains very high.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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