The first debate for candidates for U.S. Senate from Virginia – scheduled for this coming weekend – will likely set the tone for the race as it enters the fall. 

Both candidates, incumbent Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican challenger Corey Stewart are expected to play to their base and core supporters in order to generate significant post-debate media coverage, according to Virginia Tech’s Bob Denton.

Denton is a recognized expert on Virginia politics, political communication, debates and political campaigns. He has followed Kaine’s political career since he was first elected mayor of Richmond in 1998.

Denton points to five themes to look for coming out of Saturday’s debate at The Homestead in Hot Springs.

  • Historically, Kaine has been a very good debater, but he received bad performance reviews in last year’s Vice-Presidential debate with Mike Pence.
  • To what level will Kaine try to define Stewart?
  • Will Corey Stewart personally attack Tim Kaine?
  • Because this will not be televised and with a small audience, how the media portrays the debate will be critical.
  • Both will want to be declared the winner and generate that “perfect” debate moment or soundbite.

The Virginia Bar Association traditionally sponsors the first public debate of the campaign season in Virginia.  This year’s debate on July 21 begins at 11:00 a.m.  Judy Woodruff, the anchor and managing editor of "PBS NewsHour" will moderate the debate.

Read Bob Denton’s bio

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