• 66°

Thomas Mills: One line from debate could hurt US Senate candidate Cunningham

By Thomas Mills

Debates in modern American politics are all about the headlines, not the substance.

A candidate can outperform his or her opponent and still end up losing because of one ill-conceived statement. Six years ago, Kay Hagan soundly defeated Thom Tillis in a debate just weeks before the 2014 midterm election. Then, just minutes after the debate ended, she told the press that she had missed a committee vote to attend a fundraiser. That statement obscured her debate victory and dominated headlines the next day and into the stretch of the campaign.

Monday night, incumbent Sen. Thom Tillis faced Democrat Cal Cunningham. While the debate seemed to be rather boring, Cunningham made a gaffe. He said that he would “be hesitant” to take a COVID-19 vaccine if it were developed before the election. Cunningham mentioned that the vaccine has become politicized. It was the wrong answer even if it was true.

He immediately got hit as an anit-vaxxer. Republicans will say that he wants the virus to continue to hurt Trump and he’s casting doubt on our government and institutions at a time when Democrats are arguing that we need to restore faith them. His phrasing was unfortunate.

In reality, Cunningham is right. There’s no way to produce a safe vaccine in the next 50 days. If one is produced, the approval process will have cut corners. No vaccine could be completed in the time necessary to test for both effectiveness and safety. AstraZeneca halted trials after someone developed serious neurological problems from their vaccine in development. A vaccine approved without proper testing could cause as many problems as the virus, especially on people who may otherwise be asymptomatic.

Cunningham needed a more nuanced answer. He should have said that he would certainly take a vaccine if it had gone through all of the proper trials for both safety and effectiveness. He could have qualified it by saying that he has concerns that the GOP is letting politics infiltrate the Center for Disease Control and Food and Drug Administration that could be corrupting the process. He could have even dinged Tillis for failing to intervene to prevent politics from corrupting the process. But he didn’t.

Cunningham is lucky this debate is in mid-September instead of late-October. He’ll get a few bad headlines and stories, but it will probably go away. He’s got two more debates that can overshadow what happened last night. Unfortunately, one line dominated an hour long debate, but modern debates are more about avoiding gaffes than winning arguments.

Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent 20 years as a political and public affairs consultant. 

Comments

Education

‘Better chance of succeeding’: Moody, colleagues reflect on tenure, retirement

News

Collecting garbage: Locals work to beautify High Rock Lake during Clean Sweep

Coronavirus

Salisbury man grateful parents’ story has impacted many

News

Celtics take big lead and hold on to top Heat 117-106

Business

Downtown Salisbury ‘moving swiftly’ with developers interested in Empire Hotel

Business

From fantasy to fact, Cherry builds a Hobbit House at his Treesort

Business

Biz Roundup: CSP seeking to hire 100 new employees for plant expansion

Coronavirus

Police, sheriff focus on education in addressing mask-wearing complaints

Education

Candidates for East Area school board seat have widely different views on renewal

Kannapolis

Cannon Mills’ whistle sounds again, brings nostalgia with it

Coronavirus

UPDATED: Outbreak at jail annex over; new cases emerge at Kannapolis facility

Elections

In Senate race, Tillis calibrates ties to Trump

News

5 Charlotte officers recommended for dismissal after death in custody

Elections

Trump, Biden hit unlikely battleground state of Minnesota

College

Maui Invitational moving to Asheville during pandemic

News

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

Crime

Blotter: Sept. 19

Coronavirus

Kannapolis brewery linked to eight COVID-19 positives

Elections

Local Democrats call to ‘turn the state blue’ during virtual office reopening

Education

Funding flat, enrollment down slightly for Rowan-Salisbury Schools

Education

Catawba gets high marks in U.S. News and World rankings for fifth year

Business

China Grove soap store sets sights on expansion into Kannapolis

News

Charlotte, UNC game canceled after 49ers place players in quarantine

Crime

Blotter: Sept. 18