Emory debate expert says President Trump won first debate

Between the shouting matches and insults, one local debate expert thinks President Donald Trump came out on top of Tuesday's presidential debate.

"I don't necessarily know if there was a huge victory on the part of either candidate.  I just fundamentally believe that Joe Biden had a huge opportunity that was presented to him and he didn't take advantage of it," explained Ed Lee, senior director of the Alben W. Barkley Forum for Debate, Deliberation and Dialogue at Emory University.  "I don't think it changes the dynamics of the debate, I just think that Donald Trump probably did a better job, was closer aligned with what his people wanted him to achieve than Joe Biden was."

As someone who prepares debaters, Lee said Biden's team likely told the former vice president to focus his remarks on the coronavirus and stay away from attacks.

"Not only did he not talk about the virus, but he called him a liar.  He called him a racist.  He said he was the worst president ever.  He said he was a clown.  None of that was helpful," said Lee. 

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Both Biden and Trump had good moments during the event.  Lee said Biden's remarks about race showed empathy and Trump's allegation that Biden would shutter the country again to deal with COVID-19 scored him points.

The overall tone of the debate, however, concerned Lee.

"I fear the that the 'twitter-fication' of our communication practices where we communicate in 140 characters and we are only engaging with people who we share a Facebook feed with, have really created conditions where we're incapable of showing up to that proverbial water hole and having a conversation with someone who just might have a different opinion than we do and that our debates, our political debates are now being saturated with that type of animus," said Lee. 

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