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The first Presidential Debate: People will watch, but can either candidate win new support?

Posted at 8:43 AM, Sep 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-29 11:43:04-04

It’s been a tale of two campaigns in Arizona: one largely virtual and the other, while limited in size, very public with social distancing and masking optional.

However, on Tuesday, style gives way to substance when President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden debate.

President Trump has clearly made Arizona a priority. Two weeks ago, he attended an event in Phoenix. His daughter Ivanka, the Vice President, and Mrs. Pence followed with campaign stops here. Then, last week, his sons Donald, Jr. and Eric attended events in the Valley.

“I think that Trump and his surrogates have been here so many times because they’re nervous,” says Emily Kirkland, co-director of Progress Now Arizona. “They know their record on the pandemic and healthcare is really unpopular for Arizonans.”

The Biden campaign has been largely virtual. His running mate, Kamala Harris, was part of a Zoom conference with Arizona women earlier this month.

While the handling of COVID-19 will be among the questions President Trump will be asked, Kirkland doesn’t believe his answers will change anyone’s mind.

“Voting starts in nine days in Arizona. It’s already started, tens of thousands of people across the country have already voted,” Kirkland says.

Pollster Mike Noble from OH Predictive Insights says only 6% of eligible voters remain undecided. Their most recent poll had Biden leading in Arizona by 10 with a 4-point margin of error. An ABC News-Washington Post poll announced over the weekend had the President ahead in Arizona by 1 point.

“It is the last defining moment here in the race for Trump and company to turn things around,” Noble says.

With so few voters undecided, Noble says Trump can’t afford a bad debate. But neither can Biden.

“It’s going to go one of two ways,” Noble said. “Joe Biden blunts Trump’s attack and shows calm leadership, or do serious questions derive from Joe Biden’s fitness for the nation’s top position.”

We will find out Tuesday evening. You can watch the debate on ABC15 at 6 p.m.