Debate makes national history

The first presidential debate heats up candidates and students

The much anticipated first presidential debate between Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican candidate Donald Trump left students at Keene State College seeming to lean more in favor of Clinton.

The debate, which was held on Monday at Hofstra University in New York, saw mediator Lester Holt asking questions to the candidates on topics such as job creation, race relations, American security and others.

A number of students met at Rhodes Hall for a screening put on by the KSC chapter of the American Democracy Project.

In a poll taken before the debate began, of the students who attended, 11 said they were voting for Clinton; 5 were voting for libertarian candidate Mark Johnson; 2 for Green Party’s Jill Stein and none for Trump.

As the debate began, jobs were being discussed, with both sides throwing verbal punches at one another and often went over their time limits, leaving Holt to cut in and try to move on to the next question and yet the discussions continued.

Trump attacked Clinton on topics such as her handling of ISIS during her time as Secretary of State, her poor trade deals and the tens of thousands of emails she had deleted.

Clinton met nearly every remark with a smile and laugh, noting Trumps poor relations with minorities, shady business dealings, dishonesty unwillingness to answer questions.

Students also seemed to catch on to Trump’s apparent tactics.

“I felt Trump was more or less avoiding questions and being on the defense a lot,” KSC first-year student Katelynn Kaimi.

At the end of the debate, another poll was taken asking which of the two candidates won the debate.

Seventeen students voted that Clinton was victorious. a unanimous decision.

Many students attributed their voting against Trump in the debate to his apparent unwillingness to answer questions directly, as opposed to Clinton, who, according to students, answered the questions honestly and even owned up to her past mistakes, such as her highly criticized email scandal.

KSC junior Skylar Sinde said Clinton’s performance was not perfect and that Trump had his opportunity to gain an upper-hand on Hillary, on topics such as voting for the Iraq War while she was a Senator and her support of what he thought were poor trade deals such as The North American Free Trade Agreement, otherwise known as NAFTA, but he said that trump was too focused on his own agenda.

“What I thought she didn’t have going for her was that some of the talking points trump had could have been legitimate talking points, however he went on a completely different planet,” Sinde said.

Samantha Moore / Art Director

Samantha Moore / Art Director

However, while most might think that Trump lost the debate, KSC Political Science Professor Dr. Phillip Barker said that Trump has been doing this since he first announced his presidency, and has been recently climbing in the polls.

“….He gave what would be kind of classically a debate performance, but having said that, he was Donald Trump, which is what has worked well for him thus far,” Barker said.

Barker noted that if this was any other election year, it would be clear that the more presidential, calm

In the context of this election, I don’t know if that holds true or not,” Barker said

Furthermore, KSC Professor of what William Bendix said that the candidate’s performance really does not reveal much about a candidate.

“What they’re probably good at is showcasing how well candidates perform under pressure, how well they are able to retain policy information at your fingertips and how prepared they are.  There’s an artificial dimension to these debates. So they’re not really that informative for voters in trying to determine who is going to be the better president,” Bendix said.

Either way, Bendix said that most voters regardless of which side of the isle they stand, have already chosen who they are going to vote for.

“Most voters tend to have fairly strong partisan loyalties, even if they call themselves independents,” Bendix said.

Bendix went on to note that what wins election is getting a candidate’s support base to actually go out and cast their vote while also trying to sway the small amount of undecided voters scattered across the country.

With the first debate over, students and professors expect more of what they saw on Monday night during the next presidential debate.  But if the election was held the day after Monday’s debate, Bendix and Barker said that they suspect Clinton would win by a slim margin.  Nonetheless, the election is still set to take place on the second Tuesday in November.

The next debate will be held in Florida on October 4 and will be moderated by CBS News’ Elaine Quijano.

Jacob Barrett can be contacted at

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