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SDSU professors offer what to look for in the first presidential debate

Debate is Tuesday at 8:00 p.m.
Published: Sep. 28, 2020 at 10:30 AM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) -

The first presidential debate kicks off Tuesday night at eight. Before President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden had a chance to take the stage, the New York Times broke a story on the president’s tax returns over the past decade, a topic anticipated to take over the debate conversation.

For political experts like David Wiltse, the Associate Professor of Political Science at SDSU, he anticipates the topic to set the tone for the debate. It will be a key early point for Biden to hammer in the discussion.

“He (Trump) just needs to do everything he can to not talk about this, and steer the debate away from this particular scandal,” said Wiltse.

But Biden simply trading barbs about the president’s tax return is not enough if the former vice president hopes to claim fence votes during the debate. He needs to lay out his plan, should he win in November. Assistant Professor of Political Science, Lisa Hager, says that the debate is more than an opportunity for Biden to confront Trump on his tax return, but a chance to show his policies to undecided voters.

“If I were on the Biden/Harris staff, I would tell the former vice president to say that he disagrees with the way the president has been handling that but to quickly move on to his policy platform, spending too much time on that, will not be beneficial in the long run,” said Hager.

However, because of the breaking news over the weekend, the president’s tax returns could dominate the debate.

“If Biden comes out pretty hot in respect with that issue with Trump and the criticism with that issue, I can see Trump then firing back,” said Hager.

Hager added that despite the captivating nature that recent headlines might have at the start of the debate, the conversation should eventually return to policies. That’s when undecided voters will be able to take a closer look at the candidates.

“For anyone watching, they can pay attention to what kind of policy issues are discussed and what solutions each candidate has for those issues,” said Hager. “So really concrete policies platforms versus just vague talk bout these issues.”

The candidates will be at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. The debate will be live on Dakota News Now.

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