Expert Says American Voters Are Seeing “Game-Changing Primary Debates”

Newswise — A national expert and frequent author on political debates says American voters are seeing “game-changing primary debates” that are different from any we’ve seen before.

“In 1989, I coauthored an article arguing that primary election debates, because they occur when most voters are still undecided, should have an enormous impact on the course of the presidential nomination process. Nevertheless, for two decades that impact has been limited by low audience numbers and only sporadic media attention. In 2012, however, the potential for game-changing primary debates has finally been realized. This year’s Republican forums have destroyed some candidacies and resurrected others,” said David J. Lanoue, dean of the College of Letters and Sciences at Columbus State University.

“I would argue that three factors make the 2012 debates different from those that have come before. First, the candidates themselves have been particularly compelling television performers, with some exuding confidence and charisma, and others practically melting down on stage. Second, and in part because of this, viewership has been consistently strong, and media attention has not wavered despite the seemingly endless series of debates. Finally, GOP voters consider the stakes of this election to be unusually high, and they want to shop around for the candidate best able to defeat President Obama in the fall debates and in the November election. “

David J. Lanoue is Dean of the College of Letters and Sciences at Columbus State University. He is author of From Camelot to the Teflon President: Economics and Presidential Popularity Since 1960 and coauthor of The Joint Press Conference: The History, Impact, and Prospects of American Presidential Debates. He has published extensively on the topics of U.S. presidential elections and public opinion. He received his Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1986 and was former chair of the department of political science at the University of Alabama.

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