WASHINGTON - Now that both the Democratic and Republican conventions have concluded, was their a clear benefit to either candidate? According to a series of focus groups by FOX TV Stations, it really depends on who you ask.
A diverse group of voters in areas across the country — Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. — were presented with the question: “Which of the two presidential candidates was helped more by their party’s convention — Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden or President Donald Trump?”
The individual’s political leanings tended to shape their answer of Biden versus Trump, but the reasoning varied widely.
For one conservative voter in Los Angeles, it was the “message of positivity” during the Republican National Convention that sold him. For a Democrat in Atlanta, it was Biden’s ability to show himself “as someone with compassion” that ultimately gave him the edge.
There were also some who didn’t see a clear benefit for either candidate, adding that neither convention was really there to win over undecided voters, but rather, just “appeal to the base.”
For Carmen Coya, a PR specialist and small business owner who remains undecided about the 2020 election, Biden was helped more by his party’s event.
“I was more concerned by the some of the speakers that actually came out in the Republican convention. They were a little bit more, I don’t know, inciteful of fear, if anything. The flip side to that, I think Biden was painted more as a personable person,” Coya said. “However, being on the other side of the water sometimes, it’s very clear to me that for a lot of people President Trump is a president for the United States in the sense that he’s thinking of Americans first.”
Ashley Quagliaroli is a paralegal who is active with Georgia’s Republican Party as a campaigner and volunteer. She said Trump “clearly benefited the most.”
“I saw continuously throughout the RNC a big promotion of the American dream for all,” Quagliaroli said. “We saw a stark contrast with the DNC with them not even mentioning the violence going on in our country. President Trump and Vice President Pence clearly condemned the violence going on in our country and the rioting that has plagued our country and destroyed businesses, including Black-owned businesses here in Atlanta.”
Another Republican voter, Jake Evans, echoed her takeaways as Trump being helped more in the race for the White House*: *“I think undoubtedly the Republican convention. The pageantry, the marvel, the splendor which is all of what you anticipate for a convention. Republicans, in my opinion, actually talked about issues.”
For others, the RNC did not paint such an optimistic, hopeful view of the future. Ecleynne Mercy, an attorney who teaches law school graduates how to prepare for the bar exam, said she thinks Biden now has a better chance.
“I was just terrified from the Republican National Convention as a Black woman. I think if that is what they were trying to do, they did it. I was terrified,” Mercy said. “It was just such propaganda. People aren’t there because there’s a pandemic. (Trump) had a whole agency devoted to stopping that, and he disbanded it. That is why we are not outside. Nobody talked about it. The pandemic is such that even Herman Cain lost his life after going to one of the rallies, and you are going to have a packed house? I couldn’t.”
For Marty Monegain, the vice president of an IT consulting firm with a long career in senior health care issues, Biden was helped “simply because he was able to show himself as someone with compassion.”
“What you saw at the RNC was a lot of conversation around Biden’s America, what it would look like. ‘This is what Biden’s America looks like,’ in terms of what’s going on right now, today. Well, Biden’s not the president right now and hasn’t been for the past almost four years,” Monegain said.
In Chicago, three out of four participants thought Trump benefited the most with straight to the point, one-word answers.
For Dwayne Reed, a public school teacher, neither candidate really walked away as having been helped more by their party’s convention.
For Republican Brett Zebrowski, a real estate broker in Los Angeles, it was “definitely Trump.”
"My take, last week was a bunch of Hollywood elitists talking down to me and telling me what a bad person I am and how horrible our country is. And this week we had people from all different backgrounds come out and talk to me, and say what a wonderful country this is, what a wonderful thing we’re doing, and here’s how we’re going to continue it,” Zebrowski said. “So, I just like the message of positivity, and it felt more natural this week. Last week it felt very rehearsed and scripted.”
Dr. Ashley Wiley Johnson, an autism expert and Democratic voter, disagreed with Zebrowski.
“I think that Biden, of course. He was honest. Everybody on there was honest. We didn’t hear a bunch of lies. And I hear you, Brett, but the Hollywood stories came from the RNC. So I’m going with Biden,” Johnson said.
For two other Republicans on the panel, including small business owner Fortino Rivera and tech entrepreneur TJ Chang, Trump was helped the most by the RNC.
“I think it really did help Trump. A lot of people still come here, and risk their lives to get here because we are the greatest country. There’s still hope. You can make something for yourself,” Rivera said. “We’re the only place you can really do that, and he really laid all that out.”
Chang agreed: “I absolutely think that it was the RNC. America is really seeing through the left side pandering votes from celebrities, and it’s a strategy that they’ve been using forever. We’re really seeing through it now.”
But ultimately, it was the first time, undecided voter who said she saw no clear benefit for Trump and Biden following the conventions.
“I don’t think conventions are there to sway independents or undecideds,” said Miriam Gorbatov, a student at UCLA. “I really think they’re there to appeal to the base and get excitement going right before the election. It’s the debates that will really determine how each candidate feels about policy issues.”
In the District, most of the group felt that Trump benefited the most from his party’s convention — regardless of party lines.
“More people were watching the RNC than the DNC. I think it really moved people in a different way, something that they probably didn’t expect,” said Patricia Howard-Chittams, a commissioner on the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission.
But according to Nielsen data, the Democratic convention actually edged out the Republican convention in the number of viewers each night. An estimated 24.6 million people were watching Biden accept the Democratic nomination for president, while 23.8 million viewers watched the final hour of the RNC during Trump’s acceptance speech, according to the ratings firm.
The data includes broadcast networks, cable news channels and PBS member stations, and does not include the increasing number of those who likely streamed the convention online.
Tre Edgerton with the Howard University Student Association said the RNC helped better shine light on the next generation of political leaders.
“This convention is not only for nominating our president and vice president, but it’s also for building future political stars in the arena. So I think that it definitely helped those younger republican candidates,” Edgerton said.
For Rachel Picon, a recent George Mason University graduate, Trump’s love of the spotlight served him well during an event such as the RNC.
“Who I think honestly benefited the most from this whole thing is Donald Trump. I mean, if you put a narcissist in front of a whole bunch of people who tell you how great you are and scream your name at the top of their lungs, you benefit from that. That’s a narcissistic personality. I believe Donald Trump has it,” Picon said.
Jim Wass, chairman of Prince George's County Republican Party, responded to Picon: “Every politician has some element of narcissism and one of the main purposes of a convention is to promote and feature the main candidate. I saw an energized base.”
This story was reported from Cincinnati.