tv Campaign 2020 Brookings Discussion on Presidential Debates CSPAN September 29, 2020 6:00am-7:00am EDT
across the iron ranch, how many empty chairs around those dinner tables because of his negligence and selfishness? >> watch the first presidential debate live from cleveland tonight on c-span. stream live or on-demand at , or listendebates live on the c-span radio app. >> next, on the eve of the first meeting between president donald trump and joe biden, a discussion on the role of presidential debates. topics include a history of the debates, what each candidate should focus on, the role in the media, and the impact on undecided voters. the brookings institution hosted this hour-long event. -- the brs institution hosted this hour-long event. >> good morning. my name is elaine k mark, a senior fellow and governments studies at the brookings
institution. we are here to talk about, do debates matter? we are one they away from the first presidential debate in one of the most intense, consequential elections in our lifetime. as we get ready to watch tomorrow night we thought it would be good to do three things. first we will look back at some of the history of debate, presidential debate history. then we will turn to two experts on debate. kathleen hall jamieson, the renowned scholar from the university of pennsylvania, one of the country's foremost experts on media and politics and the founder of fact-check.org. schaefer, an experienced republican strategist and media consultant who has worked in many presidential campaigns including the campaign of mitt romney in 2012. in our third segment we will take questions from the
audience. you can submit questions in the chat function or via twitter. at #politics 2020 or via events at brookings.edu. let's have a look at the very first presidential debate between kennedy and neck than. -- nixon. here is a picture of them that shows really the problem. the very first televised presidential debate was between these two men in 1960. the idea did not come from the candidates or plug or parties, came from the networks. kennedy quickly accepted.
nixon against the advice of many also accepted. it is now widely thought that 1960 debate was a disaster for nixon, who had been sick and who made no effort to cover up his 5:00 shadow and who looked bad compared to the tan and rested jack kennedy. as you can see in photographs, nixon is wiping sweat from his face. those who heard the debate on radio thought nixon had one. those who saw it on tv thought kennedy had one. the first presidential debate showed the incredible impact of television and added a new requirement to presidential candidates, that they be telegenic. 16 years passed between the first and second debate in 1976, when president gerald ford agreed to debate jimmy carter. that debate with an amendment from the communications act solidified the tradition and we have had debates ever since. it is not surprising some of the greatest debate moments ever were had by candidates and then president ronald reagan, a former movie actor, whose comfort in front of the cameras
is legendary. but going into the fall campaign in 1980, reagan and carter were neck and neck in the polls. in the following clip from reagan's 1980 debate against president jimmy carter, he asked the question that many think was responsible for his subsequent landslide victory. are you better off today then you were four years ago? >> next tuesday, all of you will go to the polls. we will stand there in a polling place and make a decision. i think when you make that decision it might be well if you would ask yourself, are you better off than you were four years ago? is it easier for you to go and buy things in the stores then it was four years ago? is there more or less unemployment in the country than four years ago? is america as respected throughout the world as it was? you feel that our security is
as safe, that lever -- are as strong as we were four years ago? and if you answer all of those is yes, then i think your choice is obvious who you will vote for. if you do not agree, if you do not think this course we have been on for the last four years is what you would like to see us follow for the next four years, then, i could suggest another choice you have. >> four years later president reagan was running against jimmy carter's vice president walter mondale. in his first debate, things did not go so well. reagan appeared old and confused in a performance that led many to wonder if he was too old for the job. but in his second debate, reagan had a memorable come back. watch. [video clip] >> i want to raise an issue and cast it specifically in national security terms. you're the oldest president in history and some of your staff said you are tired after your recent encounter with mr.
-- mr. mondale. i recall that president kennedy who had to go for days on end with little sleep during the cuba missile crisis, is there any doubt in your mind you would be able to function in such circumstances? >> not at all. and i want you to know i will not make age an issue of the campaign. i'm not going to exploit for applicable purposes, my opponents youth and inexperience. [laughter] [applause] >> in 1988, the massachusetts governor michael dukakis was running against vice president george h w bush. it was a close race. dukakis was not helped when, in the second debate, he gave the following answer to moderator bernard shaw.
watch and see if you can see what is missing there. [video clip] >> governor, if kitty dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer? >> no i do not, bernard. and i think that you know i have opposed the death penalty on my life. i do not see evidence it is a deterrent. i think there are better and more effective ways to deal with violent crime. we have done so in my state and it is one reason why we have had the biggest drop in crime of any industrial state in america, why we have the lowest murder rate of any industrial state in america. >> michael dukakis was not the only presidential candidate to look insufficiently empathetic in a debate. have a look at this photo from the 1992 debate, when president bush was caught checking his watch during an exchange with a woman who asked about the impact of the recession on him.
clinton's warm response came as a stark contrast to bush's seeming indifference. let's move onto the next photo, which shows sometimes you do not need to say anything to hurt your debate performance. during the 2000 debate between vice president al gore and texas governor george w. -- george w. bush, gore, thinking the camera was not on him, grimaced and sighed loudly while bush was talking. saturday night live made merciless fun of him, as it has of many other politicians. and the satire, frankly, solidified the impression that gore was just rude and arrogant. and in his 2016 debate against hillary clinton, donald trump repeatedly invaded her space, keeping the camera on him and his looming presence.
[no audio] >> hello everyone, can you hear me? i'm back. ok? i'm back with our distinguished panelists after that tour of previous presidential debates. i thought i would start our discussion today with going to russ. as you know because you have been involved in them, as have i, right now, at this moment, presumably both trump and bided are seriously involved in something called debate prep. what is debate prep?
can you tell the audience, what happens? >> what is interesting is that debate prep starts in a normal campaign in a normal year at normal times debate prep starts often literally months in advance. where the candidate will get the team together and start thinking about what questions could possibly be asked and what answers what they want to put together and give. i have been involved in a couple of debate preps where the candidate has literally had a notebook with a question and then their answer specifically laid out in that notebook, and they want to memorize their answers. that often starts sometimes two or three months in advance. i remember president bush, particularly in the 2000 campaign, started quietly preparing for debates as early as june.
and there was secret debate prep sessions very very small number of people, to get him propped -- prepped for these debates because he realized and knew that it was going to be a big deal. and something he needed to perform well with. as you get closer, you start to have back and forth sessions with a staffer. they will throw questions out and try to get you to think on your feet quickly. and it will take news of the day and headlines of the day and throw them at you. then as you get to the week before, you will have literally mock debate sessions, where you find someone to play your opponent. back with mitt romney in 2012, rob portman was playing barack obama. and in the vice presidential debate, ted olson was playing joe biden, which was a great
choice. these can be as specific as you want, some can be around a kitchen table or conference table but in some cases you literally re-create a set, you have podiums exactly the distance they are going to be, exactly the height. you try to create game day situations. you have someone to play the moderator or moderators in the debate. you do a full run through for the hour or hour and a half, no breaks and no stops and come back and critique the performance afterwards. dick cheney famously would want to have rehearsals at the exact same time the debate would be occurring. so he would have -- if the debate what occurred 8:00 at night he would want to have a full run through at 8:00 at night.
there was probably no one more disciplined in the way he approached debate prep than vice president cheney in 2000 and the 2004 campaign. romney was a little bit of both. he liked to sit around and have conversations about policy and potential answers to questions , but when it came time to have a game day situation there was serious mock debates moving into the session and that is what normally happens. other candidates want to sit around and toss questions out. other candidates there was no discipline as to who is in the room. our experience is that a small number of people is a much better debate than a large group. i have been in debate sessions where there are 15 plus people in the room, and as you know, anytime you get 15 more people in a room with a presidential
candidate, everybody has to be the smartest person in the room. everybody has to tell the candidate exactly how to answer the question, even if it has already been answered or was answered well. so these wind up becoming not particularly productive. i have seen candidates literally kick everybody out and then reestablish a debate practice, maybe an hour later, with a much smaller core of maybe three or four people. the other thing that we kind of like to start thinking about, kind of the strategy of the debate. what kind of debate you want? we always like to think of it as you want a hot debate, or a cold debate. if you are behind, you might want to be very aggressive with your opponent. you might want to try to get your opponent into an unforced error. a cool debate, you are ahead, you really don't want anything to happen. you want the news headlines the
next day to be "candidates debate, candidates mix it up in cleveland."- those are the kinds of headlines that cool debates give you. hot debate usually wind up having an outcome that can possibly change some votes even if it is just temporarily. it helps you kind of with the next three to five days in the news cycle. >> i also have heard over the years that sometimes the presidential candidates, if the stand-in opponent is doing a really good job, the candidate gets really mad at them and says that they are so in the role. [laughter] paul begala played george bush in the debate i was in with al gore. al gore got really mad at him, like, all, how could you say these things?
paul would be george bush, so -- >> absolutely. we had a session once -- i will not say who the candidate was -- where we literally had to take a break and the candidate walked out of the room and we had to start a half-hour later and everybody had to say they were sorry, and we apologized and went back into it again. [laughter] >> exactly. kathleen, you wrote a book about this a long time ago. you keep writing about media and the politics of communications. where does the mastery of the media come in in a presidential debate? >> a lot of people say it is in the opening. the 1960 example where the presumption is that it was an advantage for nixon in radio and a disadvantage in television and the reverse for kennedy. one thing we need to say from a scholar standpoint is a study
that was so small and in academic terms, so underpowered that it cannot establish that. , it is just intuitively it just one of those things that seems to be true. and you listen to the debates and what you see and something about how human process information. the visuals through which we communicate, the demeanor that you can see, the tone of voice that you can hear, they are all communicating things beyond what you can see on the transcript. so to the extent that they are consistent with the message that says competent, shares my values, trustworthy, that is beneficial for the candidate. also because of television, and because debates in general are not just heard, they are seen. television as a media has the capacity to do you in as a candidate. if you look at the split screen with trump and with clinton in 2016, trump knows he is on camera in split screen. he is grimacing, nodding, scowling, drawing attention away from hillary clinton's answers.
that is distracting and it is reframing. you saw it inadvertent in the 1960 campaign when the camera cuts away to nixon. and nixon is seen nodding as if he agrees with something kennedy is actually saying. to the extent that the median is the vehicle through which we see the debates, the candidates' and the producers' capacities to see what we are experiencing can eframe what we r are experiencing can affect how we perceive it in a different way than if he were sitting in a -- we were sitting in a live auditorium. >> let me ask both of you -- i guess i will start with kathleen and go to russ. do these debates matter? if you have to pick a debate where it seems like it had an impact on the subsequent vote, which one would you pick, or which two or three? >> i would pick 1976. it is interesting and complex.
the question -- >> frame it for our viewers who might be younger than we are. >> the press cast an answer by gerald ford in 1970 x to question about soviet domination of eastern europe, as a gaffe. max frankel who raised the question and repeatedly followed it up, implied that it was a mistake on ford's part. and people who watched the debate before they saw made the commentarya afterwards made nothing of it. people who saw the media commentary perceived it was problematic before. that tells us that the media coverage of the debate, the medium interpretation framing of the debate can have an effect just like different exposure from the debate itself. the reason i would pick that as an example of the case in which it may have affected the outcome is for light in the polls immediately after the debate and he held his ground and said i
-- ford fell in the polls immediately after the debate and he held his ground and said i did not make a mistake. he did articulate though poorly the policy that led presidents had held over an extended period, that is they refused to grant the soviet union's right to be in eastern europe, and that is that the soviet union did not dominate, saying this is our policy and we will not grant it. and as the uprisings and the outcomes in poland illustrated, his position was vindicated historically. what ford was affirming the people's right to sovereignty. so what you see is he failed to apologize for something about which he was not wrong. that is potentially a media effect. but nonetheless, he was closing on carter in the polls and had he continued to close at the rate he was before the debate, he would have won that election. >> russ, can you think of one? >> again, i don't know if it was a complete game changer, but i
will talk about the one that i think we are most familiar with was in 2012, where you remember the first debate between mitt romney and president obama. obama widely except that did not bring his a game nor his b again, and possibly brought his c game, and mitt romney was on fire. mitt had had a very good, solid debate, and it really helped to the campaign with momentum moving forward. the second debate was kind of a push. the third debate was the foreign policy debate. that was the one where obama attacks romney for saying russia is our greatest geopolitical foe, where he said the 1960's called and they want the foreign policy back. at the time it was seen that
obama really handed it to romney and he did. we saw the momentum, any momentum that we had moving into that had stopped, and it was the last debate, so the campaign was really set. these debates -- there are a couple big moments in campaign -- the conventions are one, nominating your vice president is another. debates are another where there where maybe the dynamic can change. and maybe it doesn't change completely, the trajectory of the race, but what it does is it changes it for a while. and being the last debate, that really changed the direction. it seems that obama had gotten the upper hand on romney in the last debate, and for the next two and half, three weeks, then we had hurricane sandy, and it was just starting for romney to start going down. our polling showed that we were very competitive to that point,
and after that, we never were waiting in the state that we needed to win. never by enough anyway. that would be the one that i would point to. >> it is interesting. we have seen incumbent presidents. sometimes they screw up their first debate, and i wonder if it is a -- we had obama, we had bush i think you could say gerald ford. i think you could probably say jimmy carter in the debate against reagan. >> and reagan in 1984. >> that is right, reagan in 1984. i wonder what that is. is it they feel like there are , so many other important things to do, why do i have to sit in here in this room with my aids -- aides for two days and answer questions and, you know, they probably resist doing the sort of debate prep that they should be doing. >> well it is very different.
as you know, when you're in a campaign over a long period with a candidate, maybe even a governor or a senator or a vice president, there is an ability, there is a familiarity that you forth aback and , give-and-take. you are not sitting with the guy and all of a sudden who is the candidate or the woman who is the candidate who might have been the senator or governor. you're are now sitting with the president of the united states and you are having to give the president of the united states, to criticize his or her record in a way that you know, they , -- they do not like to hear, that they are not used to hearing, and so, you know, i think you pull your punches. punches are pooled and all of a sudden they are facing and the candidate now and the entire job is to punch the opponent in the face as hard as he can, and i think that they just got used to
-- that they're just not used to taking a punch. what you see is they often recover from that in the second and third debates. >> yes. kathleen, what do you think is going on now in the debate that is coming tomorrow night? how do you think each campaign is preparing to kind of do something that will change a little bit of the course of this campaign? it's been remarkably stable. i have -- there is a chart in the recent brookings piece that i did that shows that from february 1, 2020, to september 22, this just hasn't moved very much. when you think of all the dramatic things that have happened in between -- a pandemic, black lives matter, conventions, etc., it is the stability of the race that is astonishing. so, what could they hope to
accomplish tomorrow night? >> one of the things about the perspective that says those remarkable stability is that is the national perspective, not a battleground state perspective. for practical purposes, it is focused on battleground states where there are voters each campaign thanks there are voters who can either be persuaded or mobilized or demobilized to their advantage. while we talk in national terms, a debate is aired nationally, but the question is how is it going to be perceived in the battleground states? the first question one would ask in this environment is, what are the issues that matter most to those who are most persuadable in the battleground state that i need to mobilize voters up or demobilize voters down and what can i do to change the issues in which they focus to my advantage. because the debate moderator in the first debate sets the topic, that means topics have already
been framed by chris wallace. the second thing to remember is that we are in an environment where votes are being cast right now. in most states now. you are able to think not about what to be doing on november 3, am i going but when am i going to cast the ballot i have either received or have not yet received? messaging usually creates short-term impact. the last debate happened long before the person actually cast a vote on election day. we are now in an environment where the ballot could be cast right after the debate. that is you may have it in hand and decide to fill it out that night. so we have a greater capacity to create debate impact than in past years. there was a greater capacity in 2016 than in 2012 because we had more early voting. we will have a storm of early voting this year. -- historic levels of early voting this year. so i would say although the percent of undecideds on average looks substantially lower than
in 2016. the question then becomes does the proximity of the debate to the voting decision increase the likelihood that those who will vote are going to be influenced by the content? and from a candidates perspective, are they addressing the issues that matter, focusing on things that if you focus on it, you're more likely to vote for that candidate? that can shape both about to be cast. >> last night there was some pretty bombshell news, which i was watching the football game, so i wasn't paying much attention to it. i had put my phone away and everything. i woke up this morning to see that trump's tax returns are finally out. how are they going to play that? i mean, will that become the first question tonight? >> you would think so. you would think chris wallace would ask that out-of-the-box, and you would think that president trump will have an answer to that.
they were talking about that a i istle bit yesterday, that it complicated. he is a businessman. i have had a lot of investments, you you know, what businessmen do. with president trump, the normal rules don't seem to apply. the normal rules are kind of gravity and political rules that don't seem to be part of it. he will have an answer. biden will attack him for it. they will go back and forth on it, and it will come out kind of a wash at the end. i think it will depend upon, our people, as kathleen said, at home, in pennsylvania commit michigan, florida. offended,oing to feel in some way, that they pay a lot
more in taxes than the president of the united states does? so it may not be quite in the back and forth that we will see on the stage, but in kind of how it is framed and how people -- you really want to say not how they think about it, but really truly how they feel about it. and i think to kathleen's point, there are a lot of voters who are having a ballot where they say i made up my mind, biden is the guy, i made up my mind, trump is the guy.
those early deciders might be influenced by that first debate to confirm their choice. but i think there will be a bunch of people who will say we will wait for the second debate. will wait for the third debate. or i the late deciders and some people will be mailing in their balance toward the last week when they feel like the game has been played. it is sort of like football, do you call it in the first quarter or the fourth quarter with football? you are probably watching the patriots, so you always have to wait for the fourth quarter. [laughter] >> yes. the other interesting thing about the late deciders, to the extent that there are many, is that those late deciders in a couple of campaigns really were impacted by the debates. a lot of people think that in 1980, jimmy carter had a shot at holding onto his presidency, but they scheduled that debate so late in the game. it was october 29. i think maybe, kathleen, that was the latest presidential debate ever. and because it was so late, and because ronald reagan managed to switch the narrative on himself and was not a scary warmonger but this nice, avuncular man. that seems to have had an
impact on the subsequent election. i am not sure any other debates had that clear-cut impact. can you think of any that might've fallen in that category? kathleen: one of the things that we look at is are you able to study it well enough to answer the question. so the difficulty historically has been how do you locate the audience that is going to watch the debate and study it? then how do you look at the audience that was covering the press coverage afterwards? and study it. how do you find the voter who watched the debate and the coverage afterwards? you cannot parse those out separately. to the extent that the interpretation frames the debate as you watch the debates to a channel that provides interpretation, it is difficult to separate them. so whenever people ask the
question, can you know if, my answer is academically we will never have the method underlying what it is we do to answer that with the kind of certainty with which we can answer other kinds of questions. debate exposure does change we can say attitudes that we have been able to track, but then you are studying how people project based on that. you don't know how they actually voted. for example in the book cyberwar, about russian hackers, i argue that those who watched the debate, the second and third debate, compared to those who did not watch them, controlling for everything else, i'm more likely to say that hillary clinton says one thing in public and another in private. in each of those debates that issue was raised, russia legal content in each case it was taken out of context. hillary clinton did not tell wall street bankers public and private positions, did not say she stands for open trades and
open borders. in the first case, she was talking about a steven spielberg film. in the second case, she was using hemisphere, and markets dealing with open trade and open borders in the future and in the rest of the sentence talking about energy. so we see in those debates a change of perception about she says one thing in public and another in private, and those who have that change perception say they are more likely to vote for donald trump rather than hillary clinton. notice all the inferences i have to go through to say that debate exposure appeared to of change that attitude which then projects to a different vote. i believe that mattered in a close election. can i establish it conclusively? no. elaine: one of the quickest ways to understand this is to say in a close election, everything matters. russ it all counts. :elaine: and in a landslide, nothing matters.
we are always trying to parse out what it is, what is it. before we take the audience questions, i want to get from each of you, what does trump have to do tomorrow night to try to catch up with biden? what does biden have to do to hold on to what looks like a hold, looks like a lead, including in the battleground states, because we have seen a lot of polling in the battleground states, too. what is their goal? when the debate is over, what headlines do they want? russ: will go back to my hot debate, cold debate and analogy. i'm sure if you're in trump debate prep, they are saying we want a hot debate. you are good and hot. you do better. a cool, sort of sleepy, donald trump showing up to debate, that would not be good. he is going to prosecute his
case against joe biden, is going to throw out -- my guess is he throws out, you know, his 40-year political career, his family, anything that he can think of to try to rattle biden because he wants to mix it up. so that the story becomes anything but donald trump's taxes. donald trump and the coronavirus. make it about something else. you don't like the way the conversation is going, change it. that he's a master at that. probably better than anyone in changing the conversation. and wanting to get biden to chase him down that rabbit hole. biden, on the other hand, he wants to project himself as being a president.
can he stand up there for a period of time and take the questions? he articulate? is does he seem like he still has it at 77 years of age? you look at reagan in 1984, i believe he was 72 at the time. and now we have a candidate for president who is five years older than that. my guess is they want a cool debate. i don't think you're going to get a headline either way, unless something unforeseen happens that is going to be determinative in any kind of big way. i think trump supporters will think that their guy did well and i think that biden supporters think their guy will -- did well. there may be a few people at the margin who have a scorecard trying to figure out who to vote for. but my guess is that they will still wait a little bit longer.
elaine: let me reframe the question. i think that each candidate should want to ensure that voters do not vote based on misinformation about their actual positions, and i think we ought to want no voter to vote based on misinformation about positions. so of those things that are consequential to a vote, we want the debate to clarify so that people actually know what the candidates have done and say they will do. that means deceptions about the extent to which who will be taxed by joe biden needs to be clarified for biden. it means defunding the police needs to be clarified. so you have deceptions in trump ads about who will be taxed and what he will do in relation to funding and policing. he needs to clarify so that voters do not base on misperceptions. on republican side, there is confusion about trump with social security and medicare, that is being magnified in ads by the democrats.
they are trying to increase the likelihood that donald trump in his second term will destroy social security and medicare. so what you need to do to donald trump if that is not what he intends to do, clarified. make it really clear. voters tend to be deceived by believing the things that they believe about party, and not thinking critically and looking carefully at what is in the record. so about democrats, if we think they are going to increase taxes on more people than they say they are. republicans, the perception is that they will not increase social programs. that they will cut social programs. republicans need to establish when they do not have that intent that they're not going to do it. and what that means is they also need to be on the record, because one important function of debates, giving the mass audience a preview in the form of clear statements of what the candidate will doing governance. when the candidate says, i will
not, we take that as a national promise. so that clarity is important. the electorate as a whole deserves to know how the campaign forecast governance. to the extent it does, it indicates we have a representative process. based on good information that yields an outcome that you are able to vote you could have foreseen because the debates help you. understand the context of what candidates would actually do. the public does not fully realize the extent to which candidates for president try aggressively to keep their promises. when a candidate says i am going to do it on the national stage, the likelihood that as president they will try, they may not be able to accomplish it because they may not have control of congress, but will try to accomplish that. that makes the debates important because they increase learning and governance.
elaine: this reminds me, kathleen, and i think i will send this to you, of one of the questions that has come in from one of our viewers. it relates to, of course, fact checking. [laughter] kathleen, as many of you know, is the creator of fact-check.org kathleen: co-founder. bruce jackson gets half the credit. elaine: ok. sorry about that. [laughter] is there any way to introduce real-time fact checking of candidate responses for accuracy? should this be considered? now, you guys do some of that. explain what you do, and maybe could it be done even more real-time? kathleen: i am going to take this and bounce it right to russ. the one time it was clearly done in a presidential debate in real-time, it was done poorly. they inaccurately fact checked
mitt romney, and that was a disadvantage in that was unfair. one reason we should minimize the likelihood that we do it on the fly is that it is very difficult in extemporaneous speech to lock down clearly what is said and to get right what it is that you are saying in response. that doesn't mean we cannot anticipate what candidates will say, because they can reiterate a lot of past perceptions. fact-check in advance and have those statements available. watching fact checking streamers -- fact checking streams. but i am very leery about fact checking in real time because of that experience with the romney-obama debates, and i think, russ, you can give us a commentary of that. russ: sure. [laughter] i remember that. not particularly fondly. but it was -- listen, governor romney was too much of a gentleman and too much in the kind of plays by the rules as a candidate. i think what you see now,
though, is that we saw this in the primary debates in 2012, where newt gingrich goes after juan williams as a moderator. so if i am chris wallace tomorrow night and i decide i'm going to step in and fact-check donald trump, trump is not going to disagree and say thank you chris, for reminding me, i was wrong there. he's going to attack chris wallace. [laughter] this is another glaring example of the news media putting their thumb on the scale, and this is exactly why you cannot listen to these people, you cannot listen to this guy over here, listen to me. i know what i'm talking about. so to fact-check in real-time i think becomes particularly wise -- particularly live and by the moderator is just fraught with danger to turn this into a
two-on-one debate with the moderator, the democratic candidate, and donald trump. in some ways, trump would like nothing more than to debate on the moderator because he leaves biden off on the side, trying to figure out what to say. i don't know the answer to it. i think kathleen brings up a good point in having things that are prepackaged, by having things that immediately when the debate is over with to have things that are part of the spin and the reporting afterwards. but real-time i think is going to be very difficult. elaine: that is really good, thank you. questions can come in over the chat box or twitter. i do have a question from nancy kirk in the audience. how does body language affect the viewers, affect the perception that the viewers
have? kathleen: largely we interpret our candidates through a favorable lens, and the candidates we oppose through an unfavorable one. so, when people frame questions in terms of what is the objective meaning of something, had he create a universal context of understanding, it is not how communication works. i might look at donald trump moving in on hillary clinton's space, stand behind her as being strong and confident. alternatively, i might look at it as stalking. i can tell you which is more likely to be the perception of the democrat and which is more likely to be the perception of the trump supporter. you have to be fairly clear in its own right or fairly telegraphic to have a universal meaning.
there are moments in which you worry a lot about the interpretation that people put on things, and as a result people start to see them through that interpretation of others. that moment you showed when george bush is looking at his watch is one of those. that is often interpreted as evidence that george bush was just out of it, out of touch in the debates. let me give you an alternative. bill clinton was talking at great length, and he was looking down to find out when was clinton going to end? in the kennedy nixon debates, there's a clock off to the side. nixon looks off to the side. one interpretation is he has shifty eyed. another is he is looking at the clock. nixon perspired profusely during the debate. that is genetic. that means your ancestors way back married other ancestors who are prone to sweating under hot lights. pool that the genetic
you are more likely to perspire. the idea that it suggests he was under stress, and as a result was not handling it well, simply runs in defiance of what you know about how biology works. so, the danger is we take telegraphic cues to mean something they don't, or we take the interpretation of someone else of what they mean uncritically, or we simply parse it through our own partisan lens and we don't see it for what it is. i try to put most of those things aside to the extent that it is possible. the: you mentioned gore-bush debate, in 2000 when gore was caught grimacing and siding and stalking bush. and there was that famous moment where gore kind of approaches bush and bush looked at him and nods his head and acknowledges him and kind of pushes him back. for years after that, in debate
prep, it was like don't do what al gore did. don't do that. you don't want to do that. the camera is always on you, look down, take notes, don't encroach on your opponent. in 2000, it was not at the presidential level, but the same -- a senate campaign, the debate between a candidate and hillary clinton. and the candidate gives hillary clinton a pledge to sign and walks over to the podium and it seems like he was hectoring her to sign it. that is clearly a bad moment for him at the debate. trump, whoong comes literally breaks every single one of those rules. his grimacing, sighing, making faces, talking over the person, stalking them, and it seems to work for him.
i think that viewers -- we know how, more than anything, to look. we may not read as much anymore, we may not analyze as much anymore, but we are consumers of video like never before, and generations younger than us are entirely consumers of video. they pick up video cues quite a bit, we all do, and the younger generation even more so. trump seemed comfortable doing that. and therefore, voters kind of look at that and say he is who he is, and if you like him, you kind of like him because of that, not in spite of it. elaine: hillary clinton in an interview recently discussed that debate episode for a long time, and discussed her -- i don't know if you saw this,
kathleen -- discussed what was going on in her head. she knew he was looming behind her, she felt it was a kind of threatening, inappropriate presence. but she never did know what to do. should she have turned around and said back off, buddy? get away from me? what are you doing? or can i do something for you? it was interesting because when al gore invaded george bush 's space, george bush sort of looked had them as if to say, can i help you, buddy? which had the effect of pushing gore away and stopping and making it look like bush was standing up for himself. so it was an interesting moment that obviously hillary clinton is still wondering what she should have done. kathleen: but there is something else that is happening.
by virtue of donald trump doing that, he distracted hillary clinton. part of her cognitive capacity is now dealing with a looming presence of a gigantic, potentially menacing male standing behind her. that means she does not have all the strategic resources available to focus on the audience member she is supposed to be answering. so to the extent you are giving cues to the audience member because you are responding to a question, he is actually accomplishing something, disadvantaging his opponent, which is why we ought to have rules that govern this and the moderator should enforce the rules. the moderator should say, excuse me. i want to stop for a moment. candidate trump, please get back over where you are supposed to be. now, madam secretary, let's take that question again. also, to the extent that the press becomes our way of seeing these things, the press displaces our ability to understand.
things in short-term memory disappear if we do not move them into long-term memory. remember, trump snorting into microphones or al gore sighing was not a moment in the post of a helps verify the candidates distinctions. if we come out of these debates and the public that is subject to the cap on deductions of state and local taxes doesn't realize that there is a difference between these two candidates and what they would do about taxes, that is a significant lapse in journalism. so journalists, if you focus on that, we are not moving the issue knowledge we got into long-term memory. the important things that matter are not moving into long-term memory, and shame on you. secondly, important time you could spend focusing and reinforcing issue distinctions or indicating what wasn't asked and answered is also being squandered.
elaine: we have one final question here. but it is a doozy. it comes from the audience, and the question is, have most voters made up their minds for who to vote for, including the undecided voters? it is a really good question. if everybody has made up their minds, do these matter? russ: well, haley barbour has this -- you know, this used to work for him and he has this great phrase, tell me what the ballot test is among the undecided. and what he meant by that was, and you saw this four years ago , among those people who are unfavorable to both candidates, trump won that. so i want to take a look at who are the undecideds and what of
the factors among the undecideds. and that pretty much gives me an idea of where they break on election day. listen, i think there are fewer and fewer undecideds. a poll came out, and only 28% of the electorate was looking to the debate to make a decision in this campaign. at leastdown i think 10 points over the last few years, which means that the total undecided's is getting smaller and smaller, and i think you're going to be wanting to look at is which candidate has a higher favorable among those people who are undecided going into the last weeks of the campaign. and as we see that, i think that could be more, and then along with who is motivating their base, which is what this is all about -- is donald trump able to get higher numbers of white, non-college-educated voters in
the midwest and bump that number up by a couple of points? is joe biden able to get more african-american voters in the philadelphia area out in order to win pennsylvania? those of the things the campaigns will be looking at. elaine kathleen? -- kathleen: tell me that you voted reliably in the past and that across those times you always voted for a republican or you always voted for a democrat, and i don't need more information. the people who are more susceptible to influence to those who are not tightly anchored to parties, they are not anchored to voting at all, and they are not consistently voted for one party in the past. to the extent that they feel
ambivalent about both candidates -- they are not already anchored in party, the question is, are they going to vote at all? can i mobilize them or demobilize them to my advantage? secondly, how do i increase the likelihood that they are focused on issues that matter to them, on which my position is consistent with what they want the president to do framed in a way that leads them to believe i will act in their self interest share their values. if i can communicate those two things, i will increase the likelihood on the margins that tilt in my favor. most people in the elections are already decided, in most elections just out of the box. but you have the capacity within that are not anchored by party and are feeling ambivalent and do not have a solid history voting in a particular way. that will shape influence, and that potentially is what matters. those people, however, are less likely to view debates. so whatever happens downstream of the debates, the memes or clips that circulates within
their media sphere. it is important that mainstream media nose to the extent that they can break through that with good information about legitimate distinctions about candidates. elaine: it is true. after the debate tomorrow night, it will not be just the debate, there will be articles and clips and news stories and people sending things on facebook about what was said in the debate, etc. there will be an enormous amount of postdebate information going out there to try to affect the voters. i want to thank kathleen. you are a wonderful scholar. a prodigious scholar. you make me feel totally insecure all the time when i just look at the amount of stuff you can put out in a year. [laughter] and of course fact-check.org is doing a great job. congratulations with that. russ, your list of candidates and your list of experience all over the country is truly
overwhelming, and i hope you have some good candidates this year, too, because i know you always do and you always do a great job for them. to our viewers, thank you very much for joining us, and i hope that this little session will help you, if you choose, to join in tomorrow night and have a look at the first presidential debate. and maybe come back and tell us. does it matter? thanks so much. >> the first presidential debate between president trump and former vice president joe biden's tonight at 9:00 eastern from cleveland. watch live on c-span. >> biden is recklessly campaigning against his vaccine. all it is iss and for political reasons. deal isis whole
catastrophic shut down. ,> again in his own words recorded by bob woodward, the president knew back in february that this was an extremely dangerous communicable disease. think about it. -- many people across how many empty dinnertable because of his selfishness. >> was the first presidential debate live from cleveland on c-span. stream live or on-demand at c-span.org/debate or listen live on the c-span radio app. coming up in one hour, a chief counsel for the judicial crisis network on the upcoming serene court confirmation battle. more about the supreme court with elizabeth