LA CROSSE/EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – Americans watched a contentious and a combative first presidential debate last night in Cleveland, Ohio. First News at Nine’s Phoebe Murray spoke with local members from both parties today. She shares their reactions.
There seemed to be more interruptions than information in Cleveland last night. What started as a debate with a set of instructions, turned into a free for all between the two candidates.
UW-Eau Claire Political Science Department Director Geoffry Peterson calls the night, a train wreck.
Peterson said, “There were a couple of moments in where there was some policy discussion, it did happen, but you really had to dig for it to find it.”
Beverly Wickstrom, Chair of the Eau Claire County Democratic Party says any undecided voters who watched were unable to get any real debate on policy issues because of the back-and-forth between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.
Wickstrom said, “I think that’s the problem, a lot of the attacks led to just vitriol between the two parties and left us with very little substance.”
The view was shared by Republican Party of Wisconsin Treasurer, Brian Westrate.
“I don’t know that last night that the American people really learned new or really got any new sense of either individual who’s running,” said Westrate.
Peterson says the most effective strategy of the night came from Biden, by directly appealing to the TV audience.
“It makes him appear more personable, it creates that connection and I think he did, there were a couple of times where he said “look this isn’t about me, this isn’t about him, this is about you, the voter,” said Peterson.
Then came a question on race.
Peterson said, “That should have been the biggest softball pitch of all softball pitches. No presidential candidate should have to think twice about you know denouncing Nazi’s and the Klu Klux Klan.”
Westrate said, “Could his answer have been more, crisp? Yeah, it could have been, but again he had Wallace talking and Biden talking and much, like much of that debate last night, there were a lot of, seemed easily distractions.
The commission on presidential debates announced it’s considering making format changes to the debates to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues. The next presidential debate takes place on October 15 in Miami.