Tuesday night’s presidential debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden may not change how they’re going to vote, but prominent Santa Barbara Republicans and Democrats by and large are united in the opinion that it was a thoroughly disappointing affair.
President Trump’s interruptions of Mr. Biden and disregard for when his time to speak was up was a common complaint expressed by local Democrats. Santa Barbara County Democratic Party chair Gail Teton-Landis called the debate “an embarrassment for our country and presidency” because of how the Commander in Chief interrupted his opponent and was allowed to do so.
“I think that the debate was out of control, that Chris Wallace could be a more forceful moderator,” she said. “Donald Trump was not playing by the rules that were laid out for that debate, and he was an interrupter and a bully.”
By contrast, Ms. Teton-Landis said the former vice president “stayed calm and was empathetic.” As far as policy goes, she believes Mr. Biden “did his best to provide an environmental plan and an economic plan.”
Disapproval of President Trump’s constant interrupting was echoed by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, who said the president was “unhinged” and “incoherent” during the debate as he constantly cut off Mr. Biden from making some salient points.
“I think had he been given the opportunity to give his presentation, he would have,” she said of Mr. Biden.
The senator also took exception with President Trump defending his response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which she called “a disaster.” She also disagreed with Mr. Trump casting doubt over the validity of mail-in voting with “no evidence” to support it, and giving a shout out to the fraternal organization Proud Boys, who Senator Jackson referred to as “a known right-wing extremist group” and “white supremacists.”
“I have never seen anything so degrading to the United States,” she said of the latter.
While local GOP members expressed that they were in President Trump’s camp on issues of policy, they too felt that he shouldn’t have interrupted as much as he did or behave so aggressively. Coalition of Labor Agriculture and Business Executive Director Andy Caldwell told the News-Press that while Joe Biden “refused to tell the truth,” President Trump “obfuscated the truth by way of his refusal to stay within the parameters of the debate rules.”
Mr. Caldwell, who is also a News-Press columnist, defended Trump’s handling of the U.S. economy however, and how he brought it back “roaring” prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because Democrats blame the president for the economic recession that followed the COVID-19 shutdown and simultaneously attack him for wanting to reopen the economy, Mr. Caldwell thinks President Trump is in somewhat of a no-win scenario.
“They want to blame Trump for COVID. Trump didn’t create COVID, China did,” he said.
He added, “They’re condemning him for shutting it down and they’re condemning him for opening it.”
Local Republican Denice Spangler Adams likened the presidential debate to a boxing match in need of a referee, criticizing Mr. Wallace’s moderation skills. She admitted that Mr. Biden came across as “effectively composed” and alert, and that while she liked the president’s overall performance, she didn’t like his constant interruptions.
“I think Trump showed he was a fighter, however civility is very important to me,” she said.
However, Santa Barbara County GOP chairwoman Bobbi McGinnis enjoyed the president’s pugnaciousness. Among the most memorable points of the debates she raised were Mr. Biden’s claim that Antifa is an ideology and not an organization, and Mr. Trump pointing out the former vice president’s lack of law enforcement support.
“I think that it’s interesting Joe Biden couldn’t name one police or sheriff’s organization that’s supporting him, because how could they,” she said.