Oct. 10, 2019
The views and opinions expressed in this “for expert comment” release are based on research and/or opinions of the researcher(s) and/or faculty member(s) and do not reflect the University’s official stance.
COLUMBIA, Mo. — Tuesday’s Democratic presidential primary debate televised on CNN will make presidential debate history when the largest contingent of candidates appears on a single debate stage in the key political battleground state of Ohio. Mitchell S. McKinney, who is available to speak with reporters, is a professor of political communication at the University of Missouri. He is an internationally recognized scholar of presidential debates whose work in analyzing candidate debates has taken him around the world.
McKinney notes Tuesday’s debate featuring 12 Democratic candidates at once is a pivotal time in the primary campaign when a leading candidate’s performance could make or break their bid for their party’s nomination.
“With Joe Biden’s position as the Democratic field’s leading candidate now in question, this debate could well be a turning point in the ongoing primary campaign,” said McKinney, who also serves as the director of the Political Communication Institute at MU. “This debate may be our most important yet of the 2020 campaign.”
McKinney’s extensive research has focused particular attention on presidential primary debates, with his analysis indicating that a candidate’s debate performance at this formative stage of the campaign can greatly enhance — or hinder — one’s ability to emerge as the eventual nominee. McKinney’s work also has identified key debate strategies that candidates use to distinguish themselves from their party rivals and emerge from a large field of opponents.
McKinney has advised the Commission on Presidential Debates on how debates should be structured in order to better educate citizens on significant campaign issues. McKinney’s research was influential in the creation of the presidential town hall debate in 1992. He also served as an adviser to the 2002 presidential debate committee of South Korea as Seoul officials planned their first televised presidential debates.
In addition to advising international, national, state and local campaign debate planning committees, McKinney is the author or co-author of eight books, including “Presidential Debates in Focus.” He also has published numerous research articles on presidential debates.
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