Missouri Debate Experts Size Up Tonight’s Season Finale

A worker vacuums as the set for Monday's presidential debate is prepared, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012, in Boca Raton, Florida. President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will hold their final debate Monday. / Photo courtesy of St. Louis Post-Dispatch

First off, there’s baseball captivating the St. Louis region. Then there’s the topic of of tonight’s last presidential debate — foreign policy, not exactly a front-of-the-mind issue for a lot of folks.

So does that mean people won’t tune in?

Nationwide there likely will be a drop-off from the estimated 65.6 million viewers who tuned into the second debate last week; the final presidential debate in a series almost always is less of a draw.

But don’t expect whole-scale abandonment of the debates because this year’s debate season hasn’t followed the script. Presidential debate performances don’t normally track so closely to candidates’ rise and fall in polls. And not in recent memory has the race been so close this late.

“We typically see the last debate in a series as the least consequential and it usually has the least viewership. But in this cycle, with the stakes so high and the candidates literally tied, I don’t know that the normal patterns hold,” said Mitchell McKinney, who teaches courses in political communication at the University of Missouri Columbia.

Read more on St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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