Political shift: Fewer debates, partisan rallies this election cycle


(NewsNation) — Campaign rallies and the debate stage have long been a candidate’s place to shine, but with less than three weeks left until this year’s midterms, some political experts have noticed a shift.

“We are seeing fewer debates and rallies, especially fewer debates,” Diana Carlin, a professor emeritus at St. Louis University, said on NewsNation’s “Rush Hour” Thursday.

Instead of rallies and debates, political candidates are opting for other ways to reach voters — such as social media.

“A candidate chooses to debate if it’s to their advantage, and we have a lot of candidates who don’t think it’s to their advantage,” Carlin said. “And debates are the one they can’t control very well, so this is why they’re avoiding.”  

In key Senate races in the U.S., a majority of candidates have shifted away from multiple debates, instead opting to take the stage once, as in Georgia, where the only officiated back-and-forth between Sen. Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker came at an exclusive NewsNation debate in mid-October.

Another example is the race in Arizona, where Democrat Katie Hobbs has refused to debate republican Kari Lake in their race for governor.

“Well, I think it’s fair to say that politics is constantly changing. Candidates now have more channels to get their message out. In olden times, it used to be the case candidates needed local TV stations to cover their campaigns to help get out their message,” Berwood Yost, the director of the Center for Opinion Research at Franklin & Marshall College, said on “Rush Hour” Thursday.

“You can get your messaging to the voters that you need to reach much more precisely these days than you could previously,” Yost continued.

Republicans and Democrats have also demonstrated contrasting campaign styles.

President Joe Biden has broken away from traditional campaigning practices amid low approval ratings and slipping Democratic support and with the midterms a few weeks away,

In contrast to the large, boisterous rallies with partisan crowds that Republicans — and even Democrat surrogates — have booked, Biden has elected to keep a low campaign profile.

According to the New York Times, White House officials confirmed the Biden administration’s strategy of touting the president’s list of accomplishments at “official venues, not partisan ones.”

Biden’s four-day trip to the West Coast last week, for example, included an appearance at a community college in Orange County, California, to support Representative Katie Porter in her fight for reelection, and he will be co-hosting a closed-door, invite-only reception fundraiser with Pennsylvania Senate candidate John Fetterman in Philadelphia on Thursday.

“The president’s approval rating has declined, and so when you’re running a race, you don’t want to remind voters of something they’re not happy with,” Yost said.

With the 2022 midterms just a couple of weeks away and the stakes high — there are 35 U.S. Senate seats, 36 governorships and every seat in the House of Representatives up for grabs — it remains to be seen if these approaches will work.  

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