News and Commentary

GOP Pollster: Both Trump And Biden Lost First Debate

Focus group “participants were disappointed on both sides...”
CLEVELAND, OHIO - SEPTEMBER 29: U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden participate in the first presidential debate moderated by Fox News anchor Chris Wallace (C) at the Health Education Campus of Case Western Reserve University on September 29, 2020 in Cleveland, Ohio. This is the first of three planned debates between the two candidates in the lead up to the election on November 3. (Photo by
Scott Olson/Getty Images

They held a debate — and both guys lost.

That’s what GOP pollster Frank Luntz, a Fox News contributor, says. Luntz holds focus groups during debates, and he said participants for Tuesday night’s faceoff were displeased by both President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

“I have never had a session blow up where the participants were disappointed on both sides, where everyone was embarrassed and everyone was upset about what had happened,” Luntz said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

“They felt like they didn’t get the policy they were looking for,” Luntz said of the participants in his debate focus group. “They felt like the candidates behaved as though they didn’t deserve to be president,” Luntz continued, later adding, “It actually makes them less likely to vote for any candidate.”

Luntz went so far as to say his focus group findings are making him rethink his expectations about voter turnout on Nov. 3. “I would have said to you that we were gonna have the biggest turnout ever. What happened last night actually encouraged people not to vote.”

After the debate ended, Luntz asked focus group participants to describe Trump in one word. It wasn’t pretty. “One respondent from Wisconsin called Trump obnoxious and un-presidential, while a Pennsylvania voter said he behaved like a ‘crackhead.’ Others described the president as being ‘un-American’ and ‘arrogant,'” The Week reported. “In all, from 17 voters in swing states, 15 used negative words and just two used positive words or phrases to describe the president.”

Biden didn’t fare much better with the participants. “They wanted to know where Biden’s jobs plan are. They wanted some specifics so they could have the excuse to vote for the alternative,” Luntz said, adding that the economy was the second-most important issue behind COVID-19 among participants. “They got none of it from either candidate. All they got was insults.”

“The expectation was they were gonna learn something from last night,” Luntz said. “What happened is they realized how low it can go. And I don’t know what happens in debate two or debate three.”

The debate was marred by both candidates talking over each other, refusing to let their opponent answer—or even sometimes talk at all. The Commission for Presidential Debates announced the next debates will feature a new format, saying details would be released soon.

Biden offered an idea while on the campaign trail in Ohio. “I just hope there’s a way in which the debate commission can control the ability of us to answer the question without interruption. I’m not going to speculate on what happens in the second or third debate.”

“My hope is that they’re able to literally say, ‘The question gets asked of Trump, here’s the microphone, he has two minutes to answer the question, no one else has the microphone.’ I don’t know what the actual rules are going to be literally, but that to me seems to me to make some sense.”

Related: James Woods Sums Up Presidential Debate In One Hilarious Tweet

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