Forensics coach expects policy to take back seat to politics during first presidential debate


By Kevin Bessler - The Center Square



(The Center Square) — A Northern Illinois University forensics coach is expecting a familiar theme with Tuesday night’s presidential debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

Matt Dupuis has been competing and coaching debate for 16 years and currently leads a nationally ranked forensics team. He says Trump is likely to handle this debate similar to when he took on Hillary Clinton four years ago.

“We might see a little more clash between the two,” Dupuis said. “We will see how personal things get, but I do think Trump is probably going to approach this very similar to how he approached it in 2016.”

The coronavirus pandemic is causing some changes to the debate structure. The shaking of hands between the candidates and the moderator is a long-standing tradition, but has been eliminated due to COVID-19 considerations. Neither candidate will be wearing a mask during the event. There also will be no live audience, something Dubuis feels is inconsequential.

“While both Biden and Trump know how to work an audience, I don’t think either of them is going to be hurt too hard by not having one in this format,” Dubuis said.

There are six topics scheduled to be covered during the 90-minute showdown in Cleveland, Ohio. The topics, which were chosen by moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News, are many of the same issues that have been in the news this year, including the pandemic and the economy, and the integrity of the election.

Dubuis doesn’t expect too much talk on policy.

“I really do think that policy, as much as it is supposed to be front and center at these presidential debates, might take a backseat to talk about partisan politics and individual politics,” Dubuis said.

As for watching the debate, Dubuis recommends not watching it alone.

“It is very, very important to sit down with people you care about and watch these things together so you can have these conversations while they are happening,” he said. “If you are not reflecting, if you are not engaging, you’re not gaining anything from it.”

Presidential debares also are scheduled for Oct. 15 in Miami and Oct. 22 in Nashville.

A debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Biden running mate Kamala Harris will be held Oct. 7 in Salt Lake City.

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By Kevin Bessler

The Center Square

Kevin Bessler reports on statewide issues in Illinois for the Center Square. He has over 30 years of experience in radio news reporting throughout the Midwest.

Kevin Bessler reports on statewide issues in Illinois for the Center Square. He has over 30 years of experience in radio news reporting throughout the Midwest.