RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Following a tense debate Tuesday night between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, political analysts in North Carolina said the most likely impact could be that some undecided voters sit out in November.
“If they were looking for the NASCAR wreck, they saw it last night. So, maybe you don’t need to tune in again,” said Susan Roberts, professor of political science at Davidson College.
Ahead of the debate, multiple polls showed the race to be a statistical tie in this key battleground state.
In CBS 17’s recent poll conducted with Emerson College, Biden led Trump by just one point in North Carolina, with only 1 percent of voters undecided.
Roberts said the frequent interruptions and insults in Tuesday’s debate likely did little to sway those undecided voters to support either candidate and more likely may lead them not to vote.
“Because it was politics at its ugliest. Some people just think that politics is same old, same old and don’t turn up anyway. The true independent voter, they don’t turn up that much. The leaners show up. But the true independent voter rarely comes to the polls and this would keep them home,” she said.
Roberts said it wouldn’t be to either candidate’s advantage to skip the remaining debates. She said some format changes need to occur, though.
“It’s not just a time thing, it’s the interruption thing. It was the venom that was spewed, and you can’t shut off the venom. You can shut off the mic, but you can’t shut off the venom,” she said.
The Commission on Presidential Debates, which organizes the debates, said Wednesday that the first debate “made clear that additional structure should be added to the format of the remaining debates to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues.”
It’s not clear what those changes could include.
The second debate, on Oct. 15, is a town-hall event. The third debate, on Oct. 22, was originally supposed to be an identical format to the first debate.
Donald Bryson, president and CEO of the conservative Civitas Institute, agreed with Roberts on the potential impact on dampening voter turnout.
“President Trump had several opportunities to make good points, but his inability or not wanting to get into the details, particularly about issues related to climate change and the environment, I think came across as sort of flippant,” he said. “Both campaigns at this point are going to need to rally to put together some sort of comprehensive message for the next debate because nobody’s going to want to tune in and listen to, pardon me, two angry old white men just talk over each other for an hour-and-a-half.”
Bryson said if nothing substantial changes with how the debates are conducted, it could increase the importance of the vice-presidential debate for giving voters a clearer contrast of the policy positions.
“It actually highlights the importance of the vice presidential debate where you have Sen. Harris and Vice President Pence who are actually policy wonks. So, the real policy debates for these two tickets might actually come in the vice presidential debate,” he said.
Trump faced continued questions Wednesday after he did not explicitly denounce white supremacists or militia groups and did not say if he would accept the results of the election.
When asked about the Proud Boys group during the debate, he told them to “stand back and stand by.”
Members of the group celebrated the mention on social media.
On Wednesday, Trump told reporters, “I don’t know who Proud Boys are but whoever they are, they have to stand down. Let law enforcement do their work.”
Soon after the debate, several prominent Democrats in North Carolina criticized the president.
“Our heads are spinning after this unprecedented, so-called debate,” said Rep. David Price (D-NC 4th). “Whatever we thought in advance we might say about this, we just have to shake our heads and say this was an absolutely, over-the-top, disgraceful, unhinged performance.”
Former North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue (D) said she was “embarrassed” and said the structure of the remaining debates needs to change.
“There has to be a different format for the next two. There has to be different topics. And, I would hope that someone would get a signed statement from both of the individuals running for president that they will respect the ability of the other candidate to have the mic without an interruption for these two-minute periods,” she said.