'I’m sorry to raise my voice': The 1st presidential debate was a chaotic affair, here are our takeaways for Utah voters

President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden participate in the first presidential debate Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio. (Olivier Douliery/Pool vi AP) [Sep-29-2020]

Estimated read time: 6-7 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY — Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, the unenviable moderator of Tuesday’s presidential debate, had heard enough.

"I’m sorry to raise my voice, but why should I be any different than either of you," Wallace told President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.

That moment pretty much summed up the first (and maybe last?) debate leading into the election on Nov. 3. There was lots of shouting, interrupting, insults, lies — and not a whole lot of substance.

Trump told Biden "there's nothing smart about you, Joe" and attacked Biden’s family.

Biden called Trump a "clown," "Putin’s puppy" and said he was "the worst president that America has ever had."

Trump was forceful in talking over Biden and Wallace had to remind the president of the rules he and his campaign agreed on for the debate. After getting interrupted on one occasion, Biden even went as far as to ask the president: "Will you shut up, man?"

So what can voters — specifically those in Utah — take away from such a chaotic display? We’ll try and filter out some of the nonsense to help.

Health care plans, Utah voters' most important issue, aren't all that clear

A study by the Utah Foundation showed that health care is the most important issue for Utah voters this election cycle. So what did the candidates have to say on the matter?

Trump said Biden's health care plan was the same as "Medicare for All” — the plan that Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was pushing that would have created government-run healthcare.

"You are going to extinguish 180 million people with their private health care that they are very happy with. You're going to socialist medicine," Trump said.

Biden refuted Trump’s claim, saying he beat Sanders and that was not his plan (the former vice president regularly criticized the idea during the Democratic primaries). Biden's plan, instead, would expand the Affordable Care Act to give a public option "for the poor" and would not eliminate private insurance.

Biden attacked Trump’s effort to eliminate the ACA law and claimed that Trump would take away the insurance for 20 million Americans — a number that comes from an estimate from the Obama administration as to how many people gained coverage under the ACA.

When asked if he had a health care plan, Trump said: "I'm cutting drug prices. I'm going with favored nations, which no president has the courage to do because you're going against big pharma. Drug prices will be coming down 80 or 90 percent." And about insulin, he said "I’m getting it for so cheap, it’s like water. You want to know the truth? So cheap.”

Trump has cut insulin costs for a small group of seniors via a plan announced in March to cap what seniors pay at pharmacies. The low costs are only available to seniors enrolled in certain high-priced private insurance plans. In July, Trump signed an executive order that would require certain health centers to share savings directly with poor patients who get their care at these health centers, but that plan hasn't been enacted.

Local health care experts told KSL.com that drug prices have not dropped in Utah, and Trump hasn’t detailed his plan that would replace the Affordable Care Act.

Views on racism

For the first time, racial inequality appeared enough on an open-ended survey that the Utah Foundation included it in their study. While it’s not near the top, it is a growing issue for the state and the topic led to one of the more polarizing moments of the debate.

Wallace asked Trump, point blank, to condemn white supremacists that have been accused of increasing the violence during social justice protests throughout the country. After asking for a specific group to condemn, Trump simply said: "Proud boys (a right-wing extremist group), stand down and stand by" before blaming the violence on the far-left and not the far-right.

The president didn’t use the opportunity to condemn racism or white supremacy.

Trump also accused Biden of calling Black people "super predators." This appears to be referring to a Senate floor speech in 1993 when Biden said the country needed to focus on young people who lacked supervision and structure so they wouldn’t "become the predators 15 years from now." He did not, however, single out the Black community.

The Supreme Court could come into play again for Utah voters

In 2016, many Utahns supported Trump because he would nominate a more conservative judge on the Supreme Court. That same thought could come into play again — even if newly nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed before the election. Wallace asked Biden if he would push to end the filibuster and pack the court if Barrett is confirmed by the Senate.

The former vice president dodged the question and did not give an answer.

Trump defended his controversial decision to nominate Judge Barrett and said that if Democrats held the presidency and the Senate, they would do the same thing.

"We won the election. Elections have consequences. We have the Senate, we have the White House, and we have a phenomenal nominee respected by all."

Unsubstantiated warnings of voter fraud

As the election has gotten closer, Trump has attempted to push a narrative that the election might prove to be fraudulent due to increased mail-in voting. On Tuesday, the president said mail-in voting is "a disaster" and claimed that it will lead to a "rigged election."

He was specifically speaking of nonsolicited mail-in ballots — the type Utah has used for years. There haven’t been any reports or even whispers of fraudulent elections in the state. Millions of Americans also voted by mail in the 2016 election and during the 2020 primaries, and that did not lead to widespread fraud. Trump has used some examples — ballots being found in a wastebasket in Pennsylvania and a West Virginia mailman pleading guilty to charges related to election fraud — to try and prove his theory of potential mass fraud. While there have been isolated incidents, there has been no evidence of systematic cheating or vote-rigging like Trump claims.

Trump encouraged his supporters to watch the balloting process.

Biden, in contrast, encouraged Americans to vote however possible.

"Vote, vote, vote. If you're able to vote early in your state, vote early," Biden said. "If you're able to vote in person, vote in person. Vote whatever way is the best way for you because he cannot stop you from being able to determine the outcome of this election. And in terms of whether or not when the votes are counted and they're all counted, that will be accepted. If I win, that will be accepted. If I lose, they'll be accepted."

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Ryan Miller has covered the Utah Jazz for KSL.com since 2018.


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