Trump-Biden first TV debate may prove to be a gamechanger in US elections

WION New Delhi Sep 29, 2020, 10.09 PM(IST) Sep 29, 2020, 10.14 PM(IST) Edited By: Gravitas desk

Joe Biden and Donald Trump Photograph:( Reuters )

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The six segments include Trump and Biden's records, the Supreme Court, Wuhan virus pandemic, US economy, race and violence in US cities and the integrity of the US presidential elections.

In less than 10 hours from now, the biggest event in the election calendar will take place with the US presidential debates set to kick off.

US President Donald Trump will come face-to-face with Democratic nominee and former vice-president Joe Biden in Cleveland, Ohio. There will be six segments of approximately 15 minutes each and the moderator will open each segment with a question.

Trump and Biden will have two minutes each to respond. They will also be allowed to rebut each other.

The six segments include Trump and Biden's records, the Supreme Court, Wuhan virus pandemic, US economy, race and violence in US cities and the integrity of the US presidential elections. The segments may change in case of a big news development.

Fox News host Chris Wallace will be the moderator of the first presidential debate. Wallace has said that he won't fact-check Trump or Biden given the president's love for alternative facts it will be interesting to see if Biden spends his time fact-checking the president or whether he will use it to put forward his argument.

Another thing to look out for will be the impact of Trump's tax report. Reports claim that the US president has not been paying his taxes for years.

The presidential debates are an old tradition in the US and have been happening for decades.

A Google search will tell you that the first televised presidential debate was held in 1960 between Democratic nominee John F. Kennedy and Republican vice president Richard Nixon. However, the first televised debate was held four years earlier in 1956 as Democratic candidate Adlai Stevenson challenged incumbent Republican president Dwight Eisenhower but the men did not appear for debates, their representatives did!

Former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt represented the Democrats, she was taken on by Republican Senator Margaret Chase Smith. So technically, the first televised "presidential" debate featured two women. What happened over the next four years was very interesting as the candidates were new to television camera, Kennedy knew how to use the camera to engage his voters. He looked straight into the lens, Nixon, on the other hand, kept looking from one side to another as he addressed the reporters in the studio instead of addressing the voters.

So, Kennedy ended up looking confident and Nixon seemed disinterested. It did not help that Nixon also looked shifty and sweaty, the vice president was recovering from a hospital visit and had reportedly refused to wear make-up to the debate. The result was Nixon looked very sick on-air and went on to lose the election. The debates went on to become a case study on the importance of body language - television dos and don ts and the role of charisma in the US elections.

However, there's no proof that these debates influence election results. Former President Barack Obama did not have a great debate season against Mitt Romney in 2012, but Obama sealed his re-election anyway as personal insults dominated Hillary Clinton and Trump's 2016 debates, Clinton spoke about Trump's sexually aggressive remarks on women but that did not stop Trump from winning the election.

This year's debates mark the 60th anniversary of the Kennedy-Nixon debates but 2020 is a little different, courtesy the Wuhan virus. A large portion of the US electorate is voting early either in-person or in mail. Many of them would have voted before the third debate. So, if at all, the debates have the potential of swinging votes, the first and the second one will be the game-changers.

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