RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Sen. Thom Tillis (R) and Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham stood six feet apart in Tuesday’s debate, but were miles away from each other on the issues.
April Dawson, who is a law professor at North Carolina Central University, said the difference in format — namely including time limits — may have helped Cunningham improve on a less-than-memorable performance in the first debate.
“It probably didn’t give him an opportunity to demonstrate how well prepared he was for a number of other topics. And I think this debate last night really showed how prepared he was on broad range of topics,” Dawson said.
While absentee voting is already underway in North Carolina, there is one more debate Tillis can use to make up ground. A poll by CBS 17 and Emerson College has him trailing Cunningham by six points.
“From Tillis’s perspective, I think he needs to find the good balance between the attack — because he is behind in the polls and attacking the front runner — and seeming to be a reasonable moderate voice who’s not going to turn off people in the middle,” said Mitch Kokai with the John Locke Foundation.
A group of undecided voters in Charlotte watched the debate, using dials to show real-time reactions. With the exception of prescription drug costs, neither candidate saw a surge when they talked about healthcare.
“Particularly Cal Cunningham, I thought that he had some good points that he was making in terms of expanding Medicaid in terms of strengthening the Affordable Care Act. And even Tillis, who had different thoughts about what to do with healthcare, that didn’t resonate with the voters as well,” Dawson said.
A third of the undecided voters said after the debate they’d vote for Cunningham and 22 percent said they were for Tillis. The biggest conundrum for both men may have been that 44 percent were still undecided.
Referring to one voter’s response, Kokai said “he wasn’t really thrilled about Thom Tillis being vague and he wasn’t really thrilled about Cal Cunningham giving him details. So what do you do to win this guy? I don’t think anyone knows.”
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