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Experts: Expect ‘More Chaos’ in Presidential Debate

UMass Lowell Political Scientists Available for Interviews

Pile of red, white and blue vote buttons
UMass Lowell politics experts are available for comment about the final presidential debate.

10/22/2020


Contacts for media: Nancy Cicco, 978-934-4944, Nancy_Cicco@uml.edu and Christine Gillette, 978-758-4664, Christine_Gillette@uml.edu

Viewers of tonight’s final debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden are in for a bumpy ride as Trump goes all out to win voters, according to UMass Lowell politics experts available for interviews about the event.
 
With less than two weeks to go before Election Day, the president is in the political fight of his life and will likely pull out all the stops, according to Joshua Dyck, director of the university’s Center for Public Opinion. A nonpartisan, national poll of likely presidential election voters issued by the center last week found former vice president Biden leading the race by 10 points. 

“I think we’re going to see a fully undisciplined Trump and Biden’s main job is to keep his cool,” Dyck said. “I think the president is going to play up his message that everything is ‘rigged’: The election is ‘rigged.’ The debates are ‘rigged.’ The moderator is ‘biased.’ The media is ‘biased.’ No one treats him fairly. That is the case he has presented for reelection – not a list of policy accomplishments, but a list of grievances. He is arguing that he should be reelected not because of what he has done, but because of how bad he has been treated by the Washington establishment.”

Debate moderator Kristen Welker, an NBC News White House correspondent, will also be a “chief target of the president’s ire,” Dyck said. 

New ground rules for the matchup in Nashville announced by the Commission on Presidential Debates will allow each candidate uninterrupted time to speak while his rival’s microphone is muted at the start of each section of the program. Despite this change, Trump will again try to unnerve Biden much as he did during the first debate, according to John Cluverius, the Center for Public Opinion’s associate director.

“If anything, there will be more chaos in this debate than in the first, because right now, Trump isn’t just back on his heels, he’s down for the count and he intends to come back up swinging,” Cluverius said. “I’m looking for Trump to try to rattle Biden into a personal meltdown or aggravate Biden’s stutter. That approach carries a lot of risk; in the first debate, voters thought Biden won and saw Trump as a bully. We have also reached a point, with so few undecideds and third-party voters left, that Biden needs to do something disqualifying in the debate to lose voters.” 

Cluverius and Dyck are also available to discuss:
  • Electoral College potential paths to victory;
  • Key U.S. Senate races to watch;
  • The impact of early voting.
Cluverius and Dyck are faculty members in the university’s Political Science Department. Dyck is an authority on public opinion research, political campaigns, voter behavior and government. Cluverius is an expert in research methods and state and local politics. 

To arrange an interview with either of them via phone, email or Zoom (or another platform), contact Nancy Cicco at Nancy_Cicco@uml.edu, 978-934-4944, or Christine Gillette at Christine_Gillette@uml.edu, 978-758-4664.