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Who won debate? Depends on who you ask

By Josh Bergeron

josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Reaction wasn’t surprising to the first presidential debate between candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Local Republicans declared a Trump victory and local Democrats declared a Clinton victory after Monday night’s debate.

The debate also didn’t seem to sway opinions of locals who are leaning toward one person or have already decided. Democrats said Clinton backed up her attacks on Trump with facts. Meanwhile, Republicans said Trump beat back attacks well and dished out a few of his own.

There was, however, one point that local Republicans and Democrats could agree on: Clinton came ready for Monday’s debate.

“You know, Hillary definitely came out punching,” said Rowan County Republican Party Chairman Stephen Kidd. “I think Trump did just as good a job of counterpunching.”

Clinton’s punches were supported by facts and data, said Rowan County Democratic Party Chairman Geoffrey Hoy.

“It’s something that I did not hear from her opponent,” Hoy said.

If we’re counting, there are two points both sides agreed on — Trump spoke in the manner he’s come to be known for in the 2016 campaign.

“I think he clearly spoke to his base, and I think they would appreciate what he said,” Hoy said. “One of the things that you must do, however, is you have to reach the undecided people, and I really don’t think he was very persuasive to the undecided voter.”

For Kidd, that freewheeling, sometimes brash, tone “is a language that most independent voters can relate to.”

As for the rest of Monday’s debate — held at Hofstra University in New York — local partisans didn’t agree on much. Republicans held a debate watch party at County Commissioner Craig Pierce’s house. Democrats watched the debate at the party headquarters in Salisbury.

When asked about candidates’ performances, Pierce conceded that Clinton and Trump both scored points during the debate.

“At the end of the day though, I think Trump made his issues more prevalent,” Pierce said. “Democrats have done nothing for the past eight years to improve the things that need to be improved in this economy and make things better for the American people.”

When asked about Trump’s most effective lines of attack, Pierce mentioned the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Trans Pacific Partnership. The former was signed when Bill Clinton was president and has led to the loss of manufacturing jobs in North Carolina. Hillary Clinton has changed her opinion — first supporting, now opposing — on the Trans Pacific Partnership. It’s a trade deal that would apply to Pacific rim countries.

Retired teacher Jimmie Moomaw, who attended local Democrats’ watch party, said she liked that Clinton offered specifics about her stance on raising the minimum wage and providing debt-free college during the debate. It was a similar to a point mentioned by Eva Jackson-Knight, also at the Democrats’ watch party.

“I felt that she laid out her plains,” Jackson-Knight said about Clinton’s debate performance. “Mr. Trump kept repeating himself and did not give any direct answers as to the questions. … I also felt that he interrupted Mr. (Lester) Holt quite a bit.”

Holt is the anchor of NBC Nightly News and served as moderator for Monday’s debate.

Kidd questioned whether Holt was too focused on asking critical questions of Trump rather than spreading tough questions equally.

“It just seemed to me like (Holt’s) follow-up questions seemed to constantly attack Trump,” Kidd said. “I can’t recall a follow-up question that was really directed at her personal life and her personal business.”

Democrats saw it differently, however. Jackson-Knight and Moomaw said Trump seemed rude to Holt.

The next presidential debate is scheduled for Oct. 9. It will be held at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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