Voters are ‘ill served’ by lack of second presidential debate, expert says

MU’s presidential debate expert is available for media commentary about the canceled Oct. 15 presidential debate.

Oct. 14, 2020
Eric Stann, 573-882-3346,
Mitchell S. McKinney, 573-489-9709,

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.

picture of Mitchell S. McKinney

Mitchell S. McKinney

In lieu of the second presidential debate tomorrow night, Oct. 15, President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden are preparing to participate in separate televised town halls on Thursday night. Trump is set to appear in a town hall with NBC News, while Biden will appear in a town hall with ABC News.

Presidential debate expert Mitchell S. McKinney, director of the Political Communication Institute at the University of Missouri, believes voters are ill-served by the competing town halls, and notes the television networks hosting the separate events are now implicated in the candidates’ desire to avoid debating one another face to face.

"The dueling town hall appearances by Trump and Biden will be devoid of any chance of 'imminent rebuttal,' an important element of a debate where candidates must respond directly to one another,” McKinney said. “The candidates, now competing in televised appearances, will eliminate one of the few opportunities voters have during the campaign for a side-by-side comparison."

McKinney’s experience includes serving as a staff member in both the U.S. Senate and the White House, consulting with the Commission on Presidential Debates on the development of the “town hall” debate format and how debates can be structured in order to better educate citizens on significant campaign issues. His expertise has been featured in BBC World News, CNN, C-SPAN, NPR, Reuters and The Washington Post.

McKinney notes the town halls will only further divide an already polarized electorate.

“An important feature of a presidential debate encounter, lost in the dueling town halls, is the ability to unite the electorate, and allow voters to hear from both of the major party candidates at the same time,” McKinney said. "These competing media events exemplify and will only further splinter an already polarized electorate, with each faction now tuning in and cheering on their chosen candidate.”

Editor’s Note: To view McKinney’s bio, please click here.

To arrange an interview with Professor McKinney, please contact Eric Stann at 573-882-3346 or

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