A point of blog history worth noting – I’m no fan of ScienceDebate, so you can guess the emphasis of the writing to come.
Yesterday ScienceDebate released the questions it wants the Presidential candidates to answer. While it still makes the motions toward an in-person debate, past experience suggests it won’t do any better than receiving answers from the campaigns.
Of course, it wouldn’t hurt if the organizers actually engaged with the Presidential Commission on Debates, which sponsors the debates (for the general election) and sets everything up several months in advance. While I doubt they would be immediately open to having a debate focused solely on science, they might be persuaded to make those questions a significant portion of a debate focused on domestic policy.
(As for science debates during the primaries, those are handled through the parties, and may be harder to persuade than the Commission)
The staff, board and organizers of ScienceDebate are experienced people. They have been media savvy with the use of polls and friendly publications of their coalition to get their message out (though I think Ira Flatow should disclose his involvement with the organization whenever they are on Science Friday). Yet there seems to be a consistent strategy of appealing directly to the campaigns and not engaging with the Commission. It makes me wonder how serious ScienceDebate is about having a debate versus talking about one. Is it just a matter of not being able to raise the money to host a debate?
I will at least acknowledge something good that ScienceDebate is doing. It has sent their questions not just to the Trump and Clinton campaigns, but also to the campaigns of the Green and Libertarian parties. I don’t expect either campaign to have particularly strong science platforms, as the Green candidate has expressed skepticism over vaccine oversight, and the Libertarian party objects to most government funding and most mandatory things, including vaccines.
Whatever happens, I expect that this will be forgotten by mid-December, only to be raised once again early in 2020. Once again, this will be several months too late to mater.