The majority of students agreed that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was the winner of the final presidential debate Wednesday at a watch party in the Healey Family Student Center.
Hosted by Georgetown’s Institute of Politics and Public Service and co-sponsored by Georgetown’s College Democrats, College Republicans and the Independent Journal Review, the watch party featured expert commentary from former Democratic National Committee Communications Adviser Jamal Simmons and former Director of Vice Presidential Operations for the Bush-Cheney 2004 presidential re-election campaign Mary Cheney, who is also the daughter of former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney.
According to text polls conducted by GU Politics after the debate, students generally believed the stakes were highest for Republican nominee Donald Trump, but Clinton had won the debate. Fifty-three percent of students voted for Clinton winning the debate while 20 percent cast their votes for Trump. Twenty-eight percent of voters said Chris Wallace, the moderator, won the debate.
Students at the watch party also spoke with IJR Congressional Reporter Joe Perticone and GU Politics Director Mo Elleithee (SFS ’94) who were at the debate at the University of Nevada Las Vegas on Facetime.
Cheney said this election is unique because candidates from both parties embodied the electorate’s desire for a change in the political norms. Cheney pointed to Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who ran for the Democratic nomination.
“I sit through a lot of focus groups, and I was amazed this year how many people … just wanted change against the system,” Cheney said.
Other text polls by GU Politics included students’ views on which candidate is more trustworthy in regard to national security and which candidate would create more jobs for America. In both those polls, students voted in favor of Clinton.
Having both worked on various campaigns, Simmons and Cheney offered insider perspectives on the happenings in a candidate’s room right before the debate. Cheney said debate preparation varies greatly depending upon the candidate, highlighting her own experience in her father’s room before debates.
“In my dad’s prep room, basically our family each gave him a hug, told him we were proud of him and to go win this thing,” Cheney said. “I learned later that in [2000 Democratic vice presidential nominee] Joe Lieberman’s prep room, he and his family and a couple of their key staffers held hands and sang ‘This Little Light of Mine.’”
In this final debate, Wallace, of Fox News, received praise for his efforts to keep the candidates on topic, more so than in the two previous debates. The night was punctuated by Clinton’s defense of the Clinton Foundation and Trump’s comments describing Clinton as a “nasty woman.”
Though the debate covered several key issues including immigration and the national debt, some students, like Meghan Bodette (SFS ’20), said they wished the candidates had discussed a wider range of topics.
“I would have liked to see climate change brought up. I would have liked to see more questions that involve foreign policy issues other than just terrorism and trade,” Bodette said. “No questions on Africa or Latin America. Really no questions on anything other than foreign policy issues that provide good soundbites.”
Chris Stein (SFS ’20), who attended the watch party, expressed shock at Trump’s statements insinuating he may not accept the results of the election come November.
“I just think it’s crazy that during the debate Trump said that there is a possibility he would contest the validity of a presidential election,” Stein said. “If you go down into the nuts and bolts of it, and look at how American elections are held, there’s literally no large-scale way to create voter fraud in the American system because each state operates its own system of polling.”
Bodette said Clinton came across as the most presidential by the end of the debate.
“She stayed composed, she stayed on her message, and I think she looked presidential,” Bodette said. “She was in control of what she wanted to say, and she definitely looked like a president on stage tonight.”
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