Debates could benefit down-ballot candidates, sway more voters

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT)– Area candidates participated in the first of five debates for state and federal races on Monday. These debates can have a significant impact on the outcome, especially on more down-ballot races, according to a local political analyst.

While the names of presidential candidates like Donald Trump and Joe Biden should be well known to voters, candidates running in their own back yard might not be. Political analyst Anthony Chergosky said people tend not to have a strong attachment to the candidates in these races.

“There are so many ways that these state and local offices have a huge effect on our communities and on our lives and yet they don’t get as much attention during campaign season,” said Chergosky.

For those running for local or state office, it’s largely a battle to get their name out there and something memorable about themselves or platform.

“To the extent that state and local candidates can inform voters about who they are and create their own brand, create their own image, that could really make a difference,” Chergosky said.

That way when a voter goes to cast their ballot, they’re a little more memorable. That might make a potential voter pick them at the last minute.

That’s why debates for a variety of local offices, state assembly or state senate can and do make a difference. Chergosky said political analysts look generally at debates as either having no impact, reinforcing preferences or persuading voters to switch candidates.

“We think the likelihood for persuasion is a lot higher the lower down on the ballot you get,” Chergosky said.

It comes down to voter awareness about the candidate’s platform or stances being relatively low compared to more high profile races.

“With lower voter awareness comes more of an ability to be persuaded by what you hear in a particular debate,” Chergosky said.

That’s because you might be hearing from the candidates for the first time or getting answers from them about their platform or stances you didn’t know before. But there’s still one major hurdle before that can happen– would-be voters have to tune in.

More on the upcoming debates and how to watch can be found here.