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MU expert available for media commentary on second Democratic presidential primary debate

July 25th, 2019

Story Contact: Eric Stann, 573-882-3346,

The views and opinions expressed in this “for expert comment” release are based on research and/or opinions of the researcher(s) and/or faculty member(s) and do not reflect the University’s official stance.

COLUMBIA, Mo. ­— The next round of Democratic presidential primary debates will take place in Detroit on Tuesday and Wednesday, and be broadcast nationally by CNN. As only the second time the leading Democratic candidates will face each other on the debate stage, these debates represent a crucial moment for the large field of Democratic candidates seeking to emerge as their party’s presidential nomination.

Mitchell S. McKinney, a professor of political communication at the University of Missouri, is an internationally recognized scholar of presidential debates whose work in analyzing candidate debates has taken him around the world.

“Candidates approach their primary debate performances much differently than candidates engaged in general-election debates,” said McKinney, who also serves as the director of the Political Communication Institute at MU. “In previous studies, I’ve found that viewers find these early debate encounters much more useful than presidential debates that occur near the end of the campaign.”

McKinney’s extensive research has focused particular attention on presidential primary debates, with his analysis indicating that a candidate’s debate performance at this formative stage of the campaign can greatly enhance — or hinder — one’s ability to emerge as the eventual nominee. McKinney’s work also has identified key debate strategies that candidates use to distinguish themselves from their party rivals and emerge from a large field of opponents.

McKinney has advised the Commission on Presidential Debates on how debates should be structured in order to better educate citizens on significant campaign issues. McKinney’s research was influential in the creation of the presidential town hall debate in 1992. He also served as an advisor to the 2002 presidential debate committee of South Korea as Seoul officials planned their first televised presidential debates.

In addition to advising international, national, state and local campaign debate planning committees, McKinney is the author or co-author of eight books, including “Presidential Debates in Focus,” and he has also published numerous research articles on presidential debates.