It was the debate that the country had waited for. How would a fiery, bombastic President fare against a veteran, more measured Democratic challenger? Last Tuesday evening, it didn’t take long to find out. From the first question posed by debate moderator Chris Wallace to the last, President Trump took control, alternately interrupting Wallace on the question or Biden during the answer. The evening went from debate to debacle in moments.
While there may have been ground rules agreed to by each side, they vanished like a new health care plan. Few of the nearly 90 million viewers who tuned in to see the two men square off, got what they may have hoped for. There was little in the way of answers to questions on COVID-19, the nation’s economy, or simple decorum.
“I wasn’t really surprised by Trump’s reaction,” said Pueblo native and Democrat, Anna Cruz. “He’s always been a bully.” Cruz said she had an idea it would be an explosive exchange between the two men. Her estimate was just a little low. “It was worse than what I expected,” she said. “Trump couldn’t tone himself down. At least Biden looked at the camera and talked to the people.” It was, said Cruz, “a huge disappointment.”
Also tuning in to the debate was former Saguache County Clerk Carla Gomez. The now retired Republican public official is still undecided. Gomez said she was hoping to hear something that would help her “get off the fence.” At the end of ninety minutes, she remained equally undecided and disappointed. Both men, she said, failed to distinguish themselves, especially Trump. “I could not believe or understand his outbursts,” she said. “You have to have respect for the people, no matter.”
Pueblo businesswoman, Diana DeLuca Armstrong, found Trump’s repeated interruptions troubling. “They let Trump disrespect the process,” she said. His interruptions “made it difficult to get their platforms across.” Despite the cacophony and dashed hopes of hearing something that would further help her through the process, DeLuca Armstrong plans to vote for Biden.
The three southern Colorado voters line up with other women across the country who also watched the debate. Post-debate polls showed a Grand Canyon-like gender gap for the incumbent. But the fact is that Trump’s raucous behavior is actually no different today than when he began introducing himself to the nation as a presidential candidate.
As a television personality and still a light year from entering from the political arena, he was seemingly indifferent or unschooled to the societal norms of a new century. He entered the fray with a tarnished image among women. That image was not helped by two high profile divorces, serial philandering, and payoffs to adult film stars.
Trump has insulted and disparaged more than a few women with comments about their looks or weight, including the looks of one of his opponents, Carly Fiorina. His “Look at that face…would anyone vote for that,” comment about Fiorina’s looks also did not help.
Women also found his demeaning nicknames for his opponents, racist attacks on Blacks and Mexicans and mocking of a disabled reporter reprehensible more than simply off-putting. “You have to have respect for people,” said Gomez. “No matter what.”
Nationally, women prefer Biden to Trump by 11 points. But that may not be as reassuring as it may look. White women without a college education still favor Trump in a number of battleground states where they make up 23 percent of the electorate.
Still, despite Trump’s post-debate bravado that he had won last Tuesday, calling it “a great evening,” he has his work cut out for him in the next debate---if there is a next debate. His recent bout with coronavirus may determine that. Still, he must find a way to fight his own instincts and tone down his penchant for ‘being Trump,’ a fellow with a propensity to think he owns the mic, camera, and your vote. But if there is one thing Trump has shown in his nearly four years in the White House, is the uncanny ability he has of turning a sow’s ear into a silk purse.