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Ohio State students weigh in on first presidential debate

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Students watch the first presidential debate at a watch party hosted by College Republicans and Students for Trump in the Ohio Union on Sept. 27. Credit: Sheridan Hendrix | Lantern Reporter

Students watch the first presidential debate at a watch party hosted by College Republicans and Students for Trump in the Ohio Union on Sept. 27. Credit: Sheridan Hendrix | Lantern Reporter

As the first presidential debate came to an end and Ohio State students started to file out of watch parties, it seemed as though no one left without an opinion.

“(Democratic candidate) Hillary Clinton bar none (won the debate). She showed very clearly that she has the ability to get the job done. She very obviously mastered the policy on all the issues that (Republican candidate) Donald Trump simply had not,” said Jake Vasilj, a third-year in political science and history and president of Ohio State’s chapter of College Democrats.

Naturally, the students on the other side of the aisle felt differently.

“I think (the debate) went well and I think it will sway more students toward Trump,” said Nick Davis, a third-year in environmental resource management and president of Students for Trump, though he declined to elaborate or answer further questions.

The debate, hosted by NBC’s Lester Holt at Hofstra University in New York, was live-streamed on Twitter in addition to being broadcasted on traditional TV news outlets. A record number of viewers — between 80 and 100 million — were expected to watch, according to projections leading up to the debate.

Colin Burke, a second-year in finance who said he was leaning toward Trump and attended the debate watch party put on by the College Republicans as well as Students for Trump, said he was disenchanted by both candidates.

“I thought it was a pretty poor performance by both of them,” said Burke, who added his main draw to voting for Trump was that it was a vote against Clinton. “As I watched the debate, I would just be thinking about, ‘What would a Marco Rubio or a John Kasich be doing to Hillary Clinton?’ She has so many flaws.”

Burke said he thought Trump came off more presidential than expected — a point other students brought up as well — although he still wasn’t excited to vote for him.

“I’m going to vote for Trump, but I don’t want to,” Burke said.

The candidates attempted to use the debate to play to their strengths. Trump spent a large portion of his time reiterating successes he has had in the business world, while Clinton went to great lengths to reiterate issues that voters in minority categories face.

“Too many young African-American and Latino men ended up in jail for nonviolent offenses. And it’s just a fact that if you’re a young African-American man and you do the same thing as a young white man, you are more likely to be arrested, charged, convicted and incarcerated,” Clinton said.

When it came to crime, while Trump expressed that the former New York policy of police officers being able to stop and question pedestrians, and then frisk them for weapons was a success. Clinton reiterated that stop-and-frisk was found to be unconstitutional and ineffective.

“It did not do what it needed to do,” Clinton said.

Trump countered that stop-and-frisk brought “law and order.”

Mikayla Lee, a first-year in international relations and public affairs who attended the College Democrats watch party, found this difference in policy particularly striking.

“As a black American, my family has experienced the stop-and-frisk policy,” Lee said. “It’s heartbreaking because my family would never break any laws. The fact they would be stereotyped by their skin color in 2016 is disgusting. It goes back to the idea of innocent until proven guilty, and it reverses it to guilty until proven innocent.”

Burke felt that Trump hit Clinton best on foreign policy.

“Trump’s best point is when he brings out … that Hillary has experience, but like he said, it’s bad experience,” Burke said, referring to Trump’s criticisms of Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state.

At the conclusion of the debate, moderator Lester Holt asked the candidates whether or not they would accept the victor of the election, regardless of the results.

Candidates Trump and Clinton both expressed support of America’s democracy.

“Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose,” Clinton said.


  1. This Predidental debate was a fiasco. Anybody that thinks Trump addressed issues as a President has a different opinion of what a President is suppose to be. Was he Reagan like? No. Was he Eisenhower like? NO. Was he Bush senior like? No. Was he Kennedy like? No. He is a narcissistic person who doesn’t fails to control his emotions.

    Clinton is no better. She is reading the game plan from Obama ‘s yesrs, nothing new or different. She is riding a wave created by followers who only want the first female president. She is a failure in her duties as senator and secretary of state. She had very poor judgment and her experience is over emphasized.

    Rome is burning.

    • Gunner, I take it you’re not from New York? I know first hand what Hillary Clinton did for the first responders to the tragedy of 9/11. Without her dogged fight in Congress, New York would have received a fraction of what was needed to come back from the devastation in Manhattan. And she fought to make sure first responders and regular citizens who volunteered on the pile got resources to deal with the illnesses that developed in those who worked at the Trade Center site. I can proudly say my organization fireboat.org a 1939 fireboat was brought out of retirement to help bring those trapped on lower Manhattan to NJ and pump water to the site for 3 days. As for Trump, he collected funds targeted for small businesses in his typical fashion of acquiring money for his empire. In her early days, long before you were born she could have worked for an elite law firm but she advocated for disabled children who weren’t attending public schools. I don’t vote for her because she’s a woman, I vote for her because she is the only candidate that will have any chance at keeping the economy going and not have us end up in a major conflict putting massive number of troops into the middle east. I’d really like to hear specifics on your statement that she was a failure… You can talk in platitudes “Rome is Burning.” But what would you do about the current situation in our country. It’s easy to criticize in generalities. Our country will be shaped by the Supreme Court Judges that will be nominated by the next President. Trump and Johnson to my knowledge don’t have any policies regarding protecting the environment selling off our park lands to logging, oil and natural gas companies. Hillary won’t be selling off our National Parks to corporations. I’d like to hear from you.

  2. Having classmates who are willing to publicly attach their name to comments supporting a man with a history of overtly racist and xenophobic rhetoric as a candidate for president of the United States certainly doesn’t make me feel good about the future of our society, or the present for that matter.

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