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Political experts doubt impact of separate town halls as Trump, Biden compete for viewers

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Posted at 7:15 AM, Oct 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-15 07:19:12-04

President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden are going head-to-head Thursday night — in rare, dueling but separate town halls.

Last Friday, the commission on presidential debates canceled the second debate, after President Trump refused to participate virtually.

The first presidential debate by most accounts was no win for the American voter, but it’s unclear if Thursday night's separate town halls will be either, says Associate Professor of Media and Political Science at U of M, Josh Pasek.

“The candidates have done a number of town halls, and they’ve done a lot of their own events. And so given that, I feel like this is going to be a less impactful moment in the campaign than a debate would be," said Pasek.

The candidates will compete for viewers. President Trump’s town hall will start at 8 p.m. on NBC. Democratic nominee for president, Joe Biden’s town hall will also start at 8 p.m on ABC.

"It’s sort of a step down," said Pasek. "I don’t think the town halls in practice are going to attract the same level of audience. They’re not going to allow people to compare the candidates the same way."

This comes less than 20 days before Election day, though millions of Americans have already voted by mail.

The president, refusing to participate in a virtual second debate, held his third campaign rally in as many nights — this time in Iowa, a state he won in 2016 but where Biden is gaining momentum.

The former vice president has stepped up his campaign travel recently with visits to Arizona, Nevada, Florida and Pennsylvania.

Pasek says Michigan remains a key must-win state for Biden. Most polls right now show him ahead in the state.

President Trump won Michigan by a razor slim margin back in 2016. But Pasek says right now the bigger fish for President Trump are Florida and Ohio, where he is behind.

According to Pasek, the president also needs to focus on North Carolina and Arizona. Michigan, however, remains a critical state in the senate race.