Updated September 30, 2020 - 10:11 am
Top Nevada surrogates for President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden did their best to parse a chaotic first presidential debate Tuesday evening, as Biden’s backers homed in on Trump’s language while the state’s Republican chairman praised Trump’s showing in a contest driven by personality over policy.
During a post-debate call with the news media orchestrated by the Biden campaign, Lt. Gov. Kate Marshall, Attorney General Aaron Ford and Assemblyman Edgar Flores each in turn denounced Trump’s performance while agreeing that the former vice president had proved himself “the leader to move us forward,” as Ford put it.
Flores assailed Trump for refusing to acknowledge the full gravity of the 200,000-plus American deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic, saying Trump showed a lack of “respect, dignity, leadership and accountability.”
“For the entire debate, Trump spoke about how it was everybody else’s fault what is happening right now,” Flores said. “How disappointing is it to know that in the United States of America, we have a leader that all he knows how to do is blame and not accept a single ounce of accountability.”
Ford said he is not a single-issue voter, but if he were, Trump’s refusal to denounce white supremacy when directly asked and his signal to the Proud Boys, a far-right group dubbed an extremist hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, to “stand back and stand by” would be the issue.
“That’s a code,” the state’s top law enforcer said. “And that frightens me, and it frightens voters out there. We have a problem. We need to get this man out of office, and Nov. 3 can’t come quickly enough.”
Asked whether the omission of a crucial topic for Nevadans, immigration, was concerning, Flores said it was both frustrating and disappointing.
“We didn’t talk about immigration today because there is no plan for immigration under President Trump and there never has been,” said Flores, himself the son of immigrants. “Not once have I ever heard him acknowledge the contributions of the immigrant experience and the contributions of the immigrant community.”
Gov. Steve Sisolak also criticized Trump during a Biden campaign Zoom call just before the debate, saying he expected the president to “frame his failures as successes and take potshots.”
Sisolak said electing Biden will be essential to the state’s recovery efforts as the COVID-19 pandemic lingers on.
“We can’t recover without a leader in the White House, a true leader who understands the impact of this virus and has the compassion and the experience and the backbone to do the work that it takes,” he said.
Nevada Republican Party Chairman Michael McDonald said the debate showed the differences between Trump and Biden in their stances on law and order and the economy.
“President Trump is going on how he rebuilt the economy and how after COVID-19 he’s been able to move forward with that,” McDonald said, citing the jobs lost during the economic shutdown from COVID-19 that have started to come back in recent months as the economy has reopened across the U.S.
“I want the businessman. He’s very rough; he’s straightforward,” McDonald added. “He’s not a politician, so he may say things that may upset people. But at the end of the day, his track record is he got us back, he made America stronger. Joe Biden wants people to hold hands and pat each other on the back. His philosophy, I don’t know where it’s coming from, but it’s not working.”
McDonald said the first debate was “more of a personality debate” that showed how passionate the candidates are as opposed to a debate focused on topics and policy, and he said he doesn’t think that Tuesday night changed anyone’s mind on the choice for president.
“I don’t think this solved anything tonight,” McDonald said. “You got a good show at what the other two are going to look like.”
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