Local experts: Bickering took away from policy discussion

President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden participate in the first presidential debate Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio. (Olivier Douliery/Pool vi AP)

Credit: Olivier Douliery

Credit: Olivier Douliery

Local experts were doubtful Ohio voters received much substantive information during a wide ranging first presidential debate Tuesday night in which cross-talk, interruptions and arguing dominated.

Tuesday’s debate, the first of three scheduled for the two candidates, saw President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden frequently interrupt each other as well as the moderator, Chris Wallace.

“I don’t know if we learned anything useful in the sense of public policy from the debate,” said Daniel Birdsong, a University of Dayton political science lecturer. “It seems clear from the president’s performance that his objective was to interrupt and kind of distract and to talk about anything besides a record or even a plan for what should happen in the next four years.”

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University of Dayton political science professor Christopher Devine said the likely narrative that will emerge from this debate will center around the interruptions and the insults but there were some brief moments when a candidate touched on policy plans.

During a discussion about the economy, Trump defended his record, particularly around manufacturing jobs. Biden fought to cast doubt on that record.

Biden said that even before the coronavirus pandemic hit, “manufacturing went in the hole” under Trump’s administration.

“They said it would take a miracle to bring back manufacturing,” Trump said. “I brought back 700,000 jobs, they brought back nothing. They gave up on manufacturing.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 500,000 manufacturing jobs were added during Trump’s presidency up to February. Since then, over 200,000 jobs have been lost.

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Devine said healthcare plans received at least some attention.

“Particularly President Trump being asked about how he would replace Obamacare, not just getting rid of certain elements, but what would he do for a comprehensive healthcare plan,” he said. “We didn’t get a lot of detail on that ... [Biden tried] to assure voters, many in the Miami Valley who care about this included, that he was going to do more to provide for healthcare but without going too far in a way that may alienate more moderate voters.”

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Overall, Devine and Birdsong both said it was difficult to take much meaning from the debate and said they doubted it would change many voters' opinions.

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