US elections

‘Nobody won’: Conservatives in Biden hometown left cold by Trump debate

Agence France-Presse
‘Nobody won’: Conservatives in Biden hometown left cold by Trump debate

Trump supporters watch the first presidential debate between US President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden on September 29, 2020 in Old Forge, near Scranton, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP)


For Nicholas Haas, neither candidate came out on top: 'Nobody really won because I didn’t learn anything from either side'

A “Policemen for Trump” hat on his head, Tom Kenney leaves the small room where a dozen or so supporters of the US president are watching the candidates’ debate in the swing state of Pennsylvania.

“I got sick of listening to Biden,” he says.

Inside the building, Fox News’ coverage of the widely-anticipated first debate between Donald Trump and his presidential challenger Joe Biden plays loudly to locals of Old Forge – a borough of working class Scranton, where Biden grew up.

Their colors are stuck to the mast – a life-sized cardboard cutout of Trump with two thumbs up welcomes those gathering to watch and Trump posters and anti-abortion slogans are stuck up liberally on the walls.

The group listens in silence as the two candidates rip into each other with gusto, then erupts with laughter when the president refers to his opponent personably, but with some depreciation, simply as “Joe.”

“I think Trump is doing very well, I think Joe Biden is having a difficult time making an argument, making his case,” says Doug Miller, 30, wearing a red “Keep America Great” hat.

Outside, Jackie Smith – who says she is a fervent supporter of the president – is smoking a cigarette in the rain. 

“Trump has done a lot for us in the 4 years that he’s been in office,” she says.

Pennsylvania, like Ohio – where the debate was held – is a rust belt state that’s seen large job losses in recent decades as heavy industry has declined. Trump won them both in 2016, but they are in play for Democrats in November.

Trump tried hard to denigrate Biden’s mental acuity leading up to the debate and with the Democrat putting in a stronger performance that many expected, frustrations are starting to simmer in Old Forge.

Back on TV, the candidates wrangle over the Supreme Court, the coronavirus pandemic, climate change – topics chosen by debate moderator Chris Wallace, who allots time to each candidate and doesn’t hesitate to take Trump to task for interrupting his opponent.  

But his efforts aren’t much appreciated.

“I feel for most of the evening (Trump) was not only debating sleepy Joe Biden, he was having to debate Chris Wallace, who I think is a total fool,” Miller says.

Wallace works for Fox News – a channel that skews conservative – but he has a reputation of going after anyone he comes across, regardless of their politics.

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The bitterly fought debate finished, opinions are divided on how their candidate performed.

“The winner was Donald Trump. I mean, he was competing against Chris Wallace and Joe Biden,” says 20-year-old student Lorenzo Febbo. “Joe Biden tended to respond like how he normally does, with interrupting.”

But for Nicholas Haas, also in his twenties, neither candidate came out on top: “Nobody really won because I didn’t learn anything from either side.”

Resplendent in a dress the colors of the American flag, a Trump brooch and blue Trump earrings, Lynette Villano, 74, recognized Biden’s performance was better than expected.

“He rested up for a couple days, so I guess, he was ok.”

Warm praise from the conservatives of Old Forge. –

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