WINCHESTER — Local Democrats, Republicans and independents found some common ground after Tuesday night’s presidential debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden: They agreed it was a mess.

The debate, moderated by Fox News’ Chris Wallace, was filled with interruptions and frequently turned into a shouting match — sometimes with Wallace doing the shouting.

At Shenandoah University, a small group of students gathered for a debate-watching party in Stimpson Auditorium. They said afterward they felt the debate, which was the first between Trump and Biden, lacked substance.

“I feel like neither one gave an absolute stellar performance,” said sophomore Caitlyn Graulau, who considers herself a moderate with a political ideology that aligns more with liberals. “If I really had to pick [a winner], I’d say Biden because he kept his composure more so.”

She added that the exchange between the two candidates will probably do little to change the minds of voters “due to how chaotic it was.”

But she hopes both candidates urge voters to relax and respect each other, and she expressed concern about there being a lot of contention over the outcome of the Nov. 3 election.

Paul McCoy, an SU junior who said he will more likely vote for Trump, pretty much called the debate a disaster.

Sophomore Logan Piotter and junior Nataliya Krio felt the candidates weren’t able to adequately discuss their policies due to the constant arguing.

“My concern with Joe Biden is that he’s a bit of a pushover and that could be a bad thing in terms of a president dealing with other powerful people who may take advantage of him,” Piotter said. “With Trump, the biggest problem with him is he’s not very emotional. Joe Biden was able to get more emotion in what he was saying, a little more relatability. Trump didn’t necessarily have that.”

Graduate student Renee Berg said she doesn’t follow politics too closely, which is why she wanted to watch the debate. After seeing it, she’s not feeling super strong about either candidate.

“I wish they went more into what they want to do if they win and where they stand on certain issues instead of attacking each other or why the other guy isn’t good,” Berg said. “That’s what I was looking more for. I do think that Biden did better this time. I feel like Trump kind of underestimated him. Everybody calls him ‘Sleepy Joe’ and talks about his memory not being good, but I think he held it together well. He didn’t let Trump get him riled up as much as people expected. He did pretty well and was able to come up with good responses.”

Michael Romano, associate professor of political science at SU, said the debate-watching party was held to try to get students more interested and engaged in the political process. While some students are politically active, he said others are still developing their political views. Many of them will vote for the first time in the upcoming election.

“In terms of just speaking as a debater, Biden did a better job because he tried to stick to the standard debate style lessons that you learn,” Romano said. “He spoke out to the audience, looked at the camera. He tried to engage with the questions and tried to engage directly with the questions both by the moderator.”

Romano said while Wallace tried to rein in the debate as a moderator, he ultimately was unable to do so, with Trump repeatedly interrupting Biden.

“Trump’s debate style has always been kind of a bully pulpit,” Romano said. “And that’s what he did and by those measures he debated exactly the way that he wanted to. He used pretty well-known tactics to get out of situations that he wasn’t comfortable with debating. He deflected the question about condemning white supremacists for example.”

Romano said debates usually don’t do much to persuade voters, noting they are more effective at temporarily mobilizing a party’s base. But, he added, it’s unknown what impact the debates may have this year because early voting is already underway in numerous states, including Virginia.

Wednesday afternoon on Winchester’s Loudoun Street Mall, people interviewed about the debate were mostly unsatisfied by what they saw.

Frederick County resident Lynne Collins, who is a Trump supporter, felt the debate “could have gone better.” She would have preferred if Trump spent more time talking about his accomplishments than talking over Biden.

“Because I would have liked for [Biden] to talk so that he could do himself in,” Collins said. “That’s just the way I felt.”

While Collins doesn’t like Trump’s aggressive personality, she feels conservative voters have no other choice in November. She compared Trump to chemotherapy, saying that while she considers his presidency ultimately good for the country, there are “some side effects.”

She thinks Biden will be controlled by more left-wing Democrats if he is elected.

“In my opinion, I don’t think it’s going to be Trump versus Biden,” Collins said. “I think it’s going to be Trump versus [Kamala] Harris, because Joe Biden, if you are honest with yourself, you know Joe Biden is not going to be our president. He’s not. He’s just a puppet. I used to like Biden back in the day when he was more moderate, but he doesn’t have that option anymore.”

Winchester resident David Carter, who voted for Trump in 2016 because he disliked Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton, said he really disliked Trump’s attacks on Biden’s son, Hunter, feeling Trump “shouldn’t have gone down that road.”

“I think Biden did a better job than Trump,” Carter said. “Trump tends to be kind of sarcastic and petty with some of his remarks, which I don’t think is very presidential. He also went right to the family issue that I don’t think Biden would have done unless Trump opened that gate.”

Carter also feels Trump’s push to reopen businesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic may have been premature. He described himself as politically independent and said he hasn’t committed to voting for either candidate yet, though at this point he is more prone to vote for Biden.

A married couple from Annapolis, Maryland, said they will not watch the next presidential debate unless the moderator has the ability to turn off microphones to prevent interruptions.

The next presidential debate is scheduled for 9 p.m. Oct. 15.

Romano said the debate between vice presidential candidates Kamala Harris and Mike Pence, set for 9 p.m. Oct. 7, should be a different experience for viewers.

“Mike Pence has always shown himself to be someone who is ideologically very kind of strongly conservative and evangelical in many respects, with all of his rhetoric and speech,” Romano said. “But he’s always shown himself to be far more civil. And Kamala Harris is well-known for her debate style. It’s very prosecutorial. It harkens back to her time as a district attorney. And so a match up between those two is going to follow that structure much more firmly. It’s going to be reminiscent of what people kind of expect a debate to be like.”

— Contact Josh Janney at jjanney@winchesterstar.com

(43) comments

john brown

them three old fellas have looks on their faces like three little bad boys doing something wrong. oh yeah, they are doing something wrong/evil. pretty close to committing treason.

talbertrich

Please everyone, check out Jo Jorgensen on the Libertarian ticket. She's the only logical choice and will be the best president for all sides of the political spectrum.

Bryan.the.Nuri

lol... that's funny.

Doc Samson

@talbertrich - I'm inclined to agree. Unfortunately, the Leftist Borg mentality will have them out in droves and, along with all the hidden ballots likely to magically appear in the weeks after, I don't think she has a snowball's chance in...

john brown

At this point tRump is a desperate criminal trying to push off his incarceration date by turning the American electoral process into utter chaos to then declare himself president for life (ie. a dictator).

Spock Here

And the really horrible irony is if he does it, he'll move to grab the precious guns.

Conservative

Notice something in the 2 pictures? The Biden folks are scared, wearing masks. The Trump folks are having a great time, enjoying their lives mask-free. They know what's up.

Spock Here

The Biden ladies have listened to scientists and doctors and look sensible. The old white guys think they know it all, like Herman Cain did.

john brown

Poor herman cain gave his life for tRump.. an idiot to the end. RIP

john brown

I'll give you this, it takes a big hammer to bang BS in to the earth. Those old boys look like the faux news clueless tRump base for sure. For their ages, not wearing a mask is really stupid.

john brown

Thanks ladies..great picture.

Vote Blue

Bryan.the.Nuri

Wow... It's pretty obvious that the anonymous Trump trolls were having fun Tuesday night. "Give h*ll, Donnie!" they shouted at their TVs. Meanwhile, they are proving more and more that their Dear Leader was dragging America further in to the mud. His total lack of decorum and simple courtesy is why America is an embarrassment even to other Americans. If you want that as a President, it's no surprise you will accept any cheap substitute for the real thing.

I am in no way an enthusiastic Biden supporter, but I am voting for him to protect our democracy. We don't need the Ugly American endorsing the kind of childish and churlish behavior we saw at the debate.

john brown

I am an enthusiastic Biden Harris supporter. Joe Biden is a decent man and great father and grandfather and his wife is a wonderful educater, mother and grandmother. They will bring decency back to 1600 Penn Ave. I enthusiastically want decency restored in this country.

Doc Samson

"Joe Biden is a decent man" It must be easy to ignore his pedo-like tendencies and foreign gov't meddlings when you are so busy chugging Kool Aid. You might want to wipe your lips... they are awfully purple... [lol]

Spock Here

From the Commission on Presidential Debates:

"Last night’s debate made clear that additional structure should be added to the format of the remaining debates to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues."

But what they maybe don't realize is that dictators don't debate, and don't follow any rules but their own.

Doc Samson

When the deck is heavily stacked in your favor, i.e. liberal moderator willing to show favoritism, coaches in your ear, and 90% of the media openly rooting for you, it's tough to make a poor showing. Life is good when you're a handsy, sniffy Democrat...

And yet, as Jake notes, support for Trump among minorities is higher than ever.

Spock Here

It's always someone else's fault.....always. Typical sociopathic behavior, and you love it.

Bryan.the.Nuri

"Liberal" Chris Wallace? Did you mean the least conservative host on Fox News? You are really clueless!

"higher than ever"? So he rose from 3% to what?

Spock Here

Anyone who confronts T is a liberal. Anyone who disagrees with him in public is a leftist socialist.

john brown

Something tells me doc and or jake know few minorities

Doc Samson

Define "something" because you don't have a clue... [lol]

john brown

You called the faux news reporter Chris Wallace a liberal. What planet do you live on? Or do you often cry victimization. You lie as much as the pathological liar tRump. tRump's lies have caused 208,000 deaths and counting.

Bryan.the.Nuri

You mean expecting fair play and complete sentences was stacking the deck against Trump?

You are a sad, little man, huh?

Spock Here

Next time they'll ask him to read his own questions....really unfair to the poor man

slowe

T showed himself to be a bully, a childish bully, petulant, and of ugly character. He is embarrassing as a representative of Americans. His administration if full of “yes” men and many have been convicted of wrongdoing. He must be defeated before he ruins us.

jake277

Bully my butt. He is standing up for America and what we stand for. You need to be strong!! The big pedo joe was nothing but lies and was wired to get help for his incompetencey. I agree it was like 2 kids arguing but the moderator was just about helping old sniffer joe the whole time. We need a different moderator..

Bryan.the.Nuri

So it is American to be a jerk?

john brown

jake, jake from state farm. must have been up late on the phone lowering premiums to make crazy comments like that ...lol

jake277

He is saving America, you libs are the ones burning it down and dividing the races. I have many friends who are black and we discuss this a lot. All of us agree this racial tension, anti white, and division all started with O'bama. The king of division and hatred. He started the anti cop movement too. I for one love Trump trying to return us back to a world power. I myself have seen our preview of socialism and do not like it. I hope you are ready for it. When items are hard to find and buy, I hope you have enough because we will be over to get our fair share from your stashes.

Spock Here

"All of us agree this racial tension, anti white, and division all started with O'bama" Yeh I in fact agree. Was it because rubes like you didn't want a black man in charge? Many people have told me that. And Trump has played y'all perfectly. Or his enablers have.

john brown

I don't seem to remember all of this President Obama division but I will grant you the racists were pretty upset having a black President that was so successful, cut unemployment from 10% to 4.9% and tripled the stock market from 6900 to19000 all while providing an additional 20,000,000 Americans health insurance. I don't remember the cities burning or the long food line or 208,000 and counting dead but jake you keep thinking your boy tRump is the answer. The world is either disgusted with or laughing at you and your dictator wannabe tRump.

Bryan.the.Nuri

Wow... Now we see why "jake" enjoys his anonymity. Wouldn't want anyone to put a face to the bigotry...

Bernie Mac

What are you talking about????? Democrats are the ones ruining America! Democrats are the ones rioting, looting, burning and committing acts of violence against law enforcement and others. Democrats are the ones supporting this criminal behavior. Democrats are the ones pushing socialism. Democrats are ruining America. If you love America, you cannot vote for a Democrat.

Blondie

I agree, Bernie Mac.

Conservative

Amen to that. But I would like to add that career politicians are ruining America. We need a Constitutional Amendment making term limits mandatory for the House and Senate.

Bose-Einstein

Who knew that Kyle Rittenhouse and the Proud Boys were all Democrats.

Spock Here

"In the last 10 years, 76% of terrorist attacks have come from the right wing in our country."

—Elizabeth Neumann, a former assistant secretary in Trump's DHS,

Blondie

slowe, you are embarrassing as a representative of Americans.

john brown

any mirrors in your doublewide

john brown

"slowe, you are embarrassing as a representative of proud boy Americans." fixed that for you but Slowe is a great American for all who believe in truth, justice and decency.

Conservative

I just threw up in my mouth.

Spock Here

[tongue]

john brown

birds do just that "conservative", whatever that means anymore, and feed that nasty mixture to their offspring. Ugh!

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