MANCHESTER, N.H. – As the two major party candidates of President of the United States presented contrasting perspectives in their first head-to-head debate, Granite Staters awaited the Tuesday night showdown with contrasting perspectives of their own as they waited to hear Donald Trump and Joe Biden go toe-to-toe.
In Manchester, Republicans gathered at the Trump Victory Manchester Headquarters on South Willow Street to watch the debate, the latest in many events that have occurred at the office in recent weeks.
Inside, a sense of optimism permeated the room from local supporters like Dave Motta of Hooksett.
Motta says he has supported Trump since he announced his first campaign for president in 2015. Generally, he voted Republicans before that point, but Motta said his more active support of Trump came not from his ideology, but from his background in business rather than politics.
For Motta, South Willow Street provided a perfect venue for camaraderie in addition to supporting his candidate.
“It’s just the excitement to be around people who think like you while watching Trump kick some ass,” said Motta. “I was never involved in politics (before Trump), and I liked his message. He puts America first and sticks to his promises. He’s not a politician and I think that’s what people like about him.”
The event also drew candidates such as Republican U.S. Senate Nominee Corky Messner and Republican dignitaries such as Salem State Representative and Trump New Hampshire Campaign Co-Chair Fred Doucette.
Doucette expected a strong night for Trump and also believed national pundits would set a low bar for Biden to claim victory in the debate. However, he also believed that Trump is capable of withstanding any attack, such as the recent claims by the New York Times that Trump only paid $750 in income taxes in 2016, a story that drew privacy concerns from Doucette.
“It’s just another show of desperation from that side, the Biden side, to pull anything and everything out to smear the president continually. Nothing new to see here,” said Doucette. “It’s the latest end game for Trump, how many times have we heard it’s the end for Trump? It’s silly and adolescent in my opinion. I think it will show tonight.”
Doucette also predicted that any undecided voters who watch the debate and then turned off their televisions after the debate would see Trump as the stronger candidate.
“You don’t have to like his personality, you don’t have to like his Twitter account, but you have to like the success he’s brought to this country,” said Doucette.
Locally, Doucette also believes Trump and New Hampshire Republicans will benefit from the Republicans’ perspective that safety during the COVID-19 pandemic can be balanced with face-to-face contact seen during traditional campaigns, contact that he believes New Hampshire voters expect.
At the Trump Victory Manchester Headquarters on Tuesday night, while masks were not required, staff said they did encourage them. Temperatures were also taken at the door.
As the Republicans awaited the debate on South Willow Street, Democrats held a virtual party with appearances from Congresswoman Annie Kuster, State Senator Martha Hennessey and others.
For Manchester Democratic Committee Executive Director Lisa Ober, any perception of an “energy gap” provided to Republicans by continuing to hold live campaign events fails to take into account the energy harnessed by Democratic activists who believe they are potentially saving lives by taking a remote approach to campaigning.
“I think we are keeping our energy up, and we’re able to do that because we know we’re making the safer choice,” said Ober in regard to the differing campaign styles. “It’s definitely different, but I think as Democrats we can continue to feel proud because we take strides to keep people safe.”
New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley echoed those sentiments and contrasted that with Trump’s often chaotic approach.
“We have a situation where we have an experienced vice president who has plans and facts to back up what he wants to present. And on the other side you have a failed president who has seriously wrecked the nation over the past four years who is a compulsive liar,” said Buckley. “The reality is that Trump sat back and for political purposes allowed 200,000 people to die and there have been more 26 million people on unemployment assistance because Trump didn’t have a plan with COVID-19.”
Buckley’s prediction for the evening was that Trump would do something that would disgrace the presidency.
“(Trump’s) a performer, he’s a professional clown and his inability to take anything seriously other than his own self-interest has brought disgrace to the White House. He doesn’t have any set of boundaries that other people have,” said Buckley. “So, while we can talk about what might happen, with somebody who has such little self-control, the debate certainly might be interesting, but I think the American people are counting down the days until November 3rd so we can begin the next chapter in American history.”