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On the Trail, an occasional column by St. Louis Public Radio political reporter Jason Rosenbaum, takes an analytical look at politics and policy across Missouri.

On the Trail: Sifting through reaction to Monday's presidential debate

State Rep. Paul Curtman is a Donald Trump supporter. But the Union Republicand didn't like how the GOP presidential nominee embraced "stop and risk."
File photo by Carolina Hidalgo I St. Louis Public Radio
State Rep. Paul Curtman is a Donald Trump supporter. But the Union Republicand didn't like how the GOP presidential nominee embraced "stop and risk."

Make no mistake about it: State Rep. Paul Curtman is supporting Donald Trump in the presidential race. Even though the Republican from Union supported Ted Cruz in the GOP primaries, Curtman isn’t joining the so-called “Never Trump” movement by withholding his support or backing Democrat Hillary Clinton.

But as he watched Monday’s presidential, Curtman said he was dismayed by what he saw as a lack of respect from both candidates to the U.S. Constitution. He was especially critical of how Trump embraced “stop and frisk” policing, a policy that was used extensively in New York City.

“This is a violation of the Fourth Amendment of our Bill of Rights,” Curtman said in a telephone interview. “And we would be up in arms if the government decided that they were just going to stop and search our homes or stop and search our cars without probable cause or without a warrant. So the same requirements that some courts or some government bureaucrats use to justify stop and frisk, the same criteria doesn’t fly when it comes to wanting to stop and go through somebody’s house."

Curtman said he wasn't impressed with Clinton's performance either, adding that she takes "a lot of anti-Constitution and anti-Bill of Rights positions as well." But he went onto say that just because Trump is the nominee of his party, he doesn't get pass on every issue.

“I’m supporting Donald Trump,” he added. “He is my candidate of choice. And I’ll be giving him my vote on Election Day. But if he makes a constitutional blunder or he has a specific narrative on an issue that doesn’t line up with the Constitution, I’m going to bring that to the attention of some people – and hopefully him.”

Curtman’s observations were part of a deluge of local reaction to last night’s debate. For the most part, opinions split along party lines: Democrats thought Clinton emerged victorious, while Republicans liked what they saw from Trump.

But some saw things missing from their candidates and the overall debate. For instance, Maryland Heights resident and Trump supporter Dan Hyatt didn’t think Clinton did a particularly good job. But he says Trump missed opportunities to level potent rhetorical attacks.

“I think Trump brought up some fabulous points and missed a couple,” said Hyatt, who is running for state representative this year. “When he hammered repeatedly that Hillary’s going to fix this and he responded with ‘you’ve had 30 years to fix it, why haven’t you fixed it?’ I thought that was critically important. I think he missed destroying her on the e-mail thing, especially when she’s talking about national security and ISIS.”

On the other side of the political spectrum, theater artist and political activist Joan Lipkin thought Clinton was “outstanding,” pointing to the former secretary of state’s sense of humor.

She added that she was disappointed that moderator Lester Holt didn’t do more to stop Trump from interrupting, adding that “to moderate is to maintain some kind of rules.”

“She didn’t rise to the bait, she didn’t overtalk him — she was presidential,” Lipkin said. “She had authority. She really did own the stage. And owning the stage is not about shouting. It’s about having a sense of confidence and awareness of what you’re doing.”

While Clinton’s performance didn’t completely satisfy every Democratic-leaning voter, it did win plaudits from Alison Dreith, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri.

"Although two people were on stage, only one showed the stamina and real policy solutions to become president,” Dreith said. “The other showed a temperament where facts are hard and it is even harder to be beat by a girl. I'm with Hillary Clinton in November."

Inform our coverage

This report was prepared with help from our Public Insight Network. Learn more or join our conversations here.

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.