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Swing state voters react to presidential debate, Biden’s weak performance

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(WASHINGTON) — After President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump faced off during the first presidential debate of the 2024 election cycle, swing state voters were quick to weigh in on the candidates’ performances.

Dan Olszewski — a self-proclaimed socially liberal and fiscally conservative Republican entrepreneur from Wisconsin — said he was the kind of voter who helped secure a victory for Biden in his home state during the 2020 election.

Olszewski said he supported Nikki Haley in the GOP primary this election cycle and won’t support Trump after Jan. 6, however, he reached out to ABC News Thursday night to vent over Biden’s debate performance.

“This is an unmitigated disaster for Biden. Shockingly bad,” he wrote.

Olszewski said the debate didn’t change how he plans to vote, but he doesn’t think Biden has done himself any favors.

“Doesn’t change my perspective since inept is better than evil but not sure how it can help any undecided go toward Biden,” he told ABC News.

In the swing state of North Carolina, voters were sharply divided on the candidates’ debate performances.

At a watch party organized by the Biden campaign, some voters were adamant that Biden had a strong debate performance, while others expressed reservations to ABC News.

“It’s obvious he’s old. He’s over 80 and that’s obvious throughout the debate. However, he’s had several amazing moments,” said Garrett Warner.

When asked by ABC News which moments particularly stuck out to Warner, he said, “I can’t remember any in specific, but there were several moments where Donald Trump said an outrageous thing.”

At a GOP watch party in North Carolina, River Collins told ABC News that Trump won the debate: “You see how articulate he is. He’s very disciplined. President Biden is all over the place. He’s losing his words. He’s saying the wrong words. He’s confused.”

Shannon Flemming, a Biden supporter, told ABC News, “I can tell he’s being very careful with how he speaks and some people might interpret that as being feeble, but we have to remember he has a speech impediment, and therefore, take that into consideration.”

Speaking with ABC News’ White House correspondent MaryAlice Parks, a former Nikki Haley caucus leader in Iowa, who said she once laughed out loud at the idea of voting for Trump, thought Biden’s performance was a “disaster,” quipping, “I mean wow.”

Thaila Flores from New Hampshire walked away from watching the debate disappointed and confused, telling ABC News, “The RNC and DNC are to blame for this.”

“All they are doing is arguing over who was the worst president. Biden can’t process his thoughts and Trump has not answered a question,” Flores said. 

With less than a five-month countdown to Election Day, and recent projections from 538 placing the candidates at a near-tie among polled voters, the presidential debates are poised to be make-or-break events for Biden or Trump.

The CNN debate marked the first of two debates in the general election season. The second will be hosted by ABC News on Sept. 10.

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