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Enthusiasm For Candidates Not Dampened By COVID On Cleveland Debate Night

Though in-person attendance at the first presidential debate of 2020 was intentionally sparse to help prevent the possible spread of COVID-19, both candidates had plenty of loyal supporters scattered around Northeast Ohio Tuesday night.

At a GOP debate watch party in Little Italy, 60 or so local Republicans were joined by State Party Chairwoman Jane Timken. The group was optimistic about President Donald Trump’s re-election bid, despite daily negative stories on his administration’s handling of the coronavirus and a series of recent polls showing challenger Joe Biden with steady leads nationally and in some swing states.

“I think things are going a lot more positively for the Republican Party than mainstream media will let you believe,” said Holly Bodi of Westlake. “I believe that people have become more silent about vocalizing their political opinion because people have just lost their ability to have civil discourse.”

According to Shay Hawkins, a Republican candidate for Ohio House District 6, the president was doing a good job during the debate handling attacks on his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think the president is doing a decent job of not making excuses, because he’s said one death is too many,” Hawkins said. “But also in saying what we’ve done correctly, what we’ve learned and what we’re going to do correctly in the future in terms of vaccines.”

Amanda Shannon also was pleased with Trump’s performance, but saw bias from moderator Chris Wallace.

“It seems like he’s supporting Biden. He keeps cutting Trump off,” Shannon said. “And he gives Biden his two minutes and Trump doesn’t get to comment back and I just truly think Chris Wallace is a RINO.”

Across town, local Democrats gathered for a watch party at Market Garden Brewery on West 25th Street. The crowd was smaller, more masks were worn and the mood was less boisterous than at the Republican gathering.

“Quite frankly, I think the whole thing was sad to watch,” said Rebecca Abou-Chedid. “This is just a president that doesn’t respect any of the norms, this wasn’t about any of the ideas. But I think Biden did what he needed to do which was to show that there is an alternative.”

Abou-Chedid wondered whether Biden’s debate performance would be enough to convince people who are on the fence to vote for him. Kelly Parks thought it might not be.

“I don’t think he could get his point across because all of the interruptions Trump was doing, back and forth. And I think that was done on purpose,” Parks said.

But he added Biden got his points across, you just had to listen closely.

“If somebody could just decipher and really look at what he was trying to say they could get it,” Parks said. “Unless they were really just a true Trump supporter, they would just negate anything he was trying to say.”

Robin Lofstrom, visiting from Seattle, thought Biden’s best points of the night were in his moments of exasperation and impatience.

“I’m very proud of Joe Biden. I thought that he conveyed very well the frustration having to deal with this clown. I thought he conveyed that very effectively,” Lofstrom said.

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