Presidential debate: ‘The loser is us, the American people’

Voters around the US tuned in to see President Donald Trump and former Vice-President Joe Biden spar in the first presidential debate.

Although topics ranged from racism in America to the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, the debate may be remembered for its ill-tempered exchanges and constant interruptions.

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Media caption“Shut up, man” and other insults and interruptions

As the campaigns head into the final five weeks before the 3 November election, the debates are a key opportunity for both Mr Trump and Mr Biden to make their case for the presidency to the American people.

We’ve asked members of the BBC voter panel how the candidates performed in the debate, and if their answers had swayed their vote.

Brian Chellgren is an attorney and a conservative-leaning moderate who is undecided on whom to vote for.

Who do you think won the debate?

I think there were three people involved. I wouldn’t call any of the three a winner. It was expected to be chaotic, and it was chaotic. Trump controlled the message with more interrupting, talking and controlling. Biden withstood it better than I thought he would. He got a little hot in the collar a few times. I didn’t see any big eye-catching gaffes. I thought Biden had a good few periods where he aimed his message directly at the camera and to the public. I think both sides will say they won. It’s like comparing apples with oranges.

What moment stood out to you?

Two moments jumped out to me. One was that Trump would not denounce right-wing extremist groups. Politicians on both sides should denounce violence. There’s nothing wrong with peaceful protests in town but there’s people that take advantage of that on both sides of the political spectrum.

Did the debate change your mind about either candidate?

The debate gave me a lot of what I expected. Trump did what we thought he would. I thought he had one good segment. I wish there was somebody who had more of Trump’s policies and more of Biden’s demeanour, but there isn’t.

Keirsten Greggs is a talent recruiter and a progressive voter who is undecided on how to vote.

Who do you think won the debate?

I definitely think Biden won the debate, but I don’t think that that’s hard in the sense that there wasn’t a lot that I was expecting from Donald Trump. At the end of the day, the loser was really us, the American people. A lot of people were expecting this to go the way that it did.

What moment stood out to you?

I think the debate took a turn and Joe Biden settled in and truly took control of the narrative when he talked about his family. By talking about his son he connected with Americans and kept that same tone and level-headedness in the next segment that will serve him well. He definitely gained some supporters in that regard. I think Biden skirted around the issue of race, but I think he did a good job connecting the race-related issue to everything, like Covid-19. I connected with him most when he was talking about his family.

Did the debate change your mind about either candidate?

It definitely did not change my mind about Donald Trump. I’m between a rock and a hard place when it comes to Joe Biden because he did not answer my questions on race. He wasn’t hard enough on police brutality. He mentioned George Floyd but he spent a great deal of time talking about what happened in Charlottesville [in 2017], and there’s many things that happened since then that he did not go in depth on. He stayed very, very close to the middle. Democrats take black voter support for granted. There’s a notion that black women are going to save America, but not me, not this black woman.

Joshua Roizman is a recent college graduate and moderate Democrat voting for Joe Biden.

Who do you think won the debate?

Biden came out on top. He came out with a strong message and I can’t tell you enough how much it mattered that he looked into the camera. Trump disrespected [the moderator] Chris Wallace. We already knew he’s disrespectful but now America all watched him disrespect Chris Wallace at the same time.

What moment stood out to you?

The biggest moment of the night was Trump’s comment on the Proud Boys. The president failing to condemn white supremacy and the Proud Boys is disgusting. I can’t believe we’re talking about this in 2020.

Did the debate change your mind about either candidate?

We were expecting Joe Biden to go out there and blunder. Trump framed Biden as someone who couldn’t finish sentences. He did great and he came out and spoke with confidence, and the American people saw that. He came out well tonight and now the Trump team is going to scramble and need to find new attacks.

Ariel Hedlund is a right-leaning disabled independent voting for Donald Trump.

Who do you think won the debate?

I thought nobody won the debate. I really understand that Trump is not a very seasoned politician. He was at his best when he was talking about his policies, what he’s done and what he’s going to do. But there were other times Biden would say something and he’d try to debunk it.

What moment stood out to you?

On the white supremacy question, I think it was a really important moment and I wish he would have repeated what he actually said [about Charlottesville] that there were good people there trying to stand up for their side of the issue. When he was talking about the militia groups, they are ex-military men who are defending their neighbourhoods against antifa and against the violence; it’s not just white people getting hurt, it’s everybody and minorities in particular and I wish Trump had said that. But he gets caught up in his defensiveness and that is his weakness.

Did the debate change your mind about either candidate?

I think Trump’s strongest point was when he talked about what he accomplished and what he will accomplish. On the other hand, Biden did really well when he spoke directly to the American people but he never gave us details and facts. I must say Vice-President Biden did much better than I expected and I do see why people respect him as a politician, and I felt pretty bad when I heard about his family situation.

Are you an American voter? Join Brian, Ariel, Keirsten and Joshua on our US election voter panel.

Use this form to get in touch.

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