Democrat, G.O.P. and undecided voters still divided

By Jack Evans, James Steinbauer and Emily Williams

On Wednesday night, Oct. 19, presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton faced off at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in the final presidential debate of 2016. We asked four Miami students what they thought of the candidates’ performances.

Mike, 20, is a conservative Republican. Coming into this debate, although he knew he wouldn’t be casting a ballot for Hillary Clinton, he wasn’t sure whether or not he would be giving his vote to Donald Trump.

Rachel, 18, identifies as an independent. Like many other Millennials, she is socially liberal but fiscally conservative. Rachel participated in early voting and already cast her ballot for Hillary Clinton.

Charles, 19, is a Democrat. Although he supported Sen. Bernie Sanders during the primary, he is now firmly behind Hillary Clinton.

Will, 20, is conservative. He’s a religious man and supported several of the candidates in the primaries.

TMS: Have you decided who you will be voting for in the presidential election?

Mike: Yes, I am voting for Trump. I was waiting for this debate to fully decide, because in the past two weeks I’ve still been considering it. I just distrust Hillary that much.

Rachel: I actually did early voting when I went home. I voted for Hillary.

Will: Probably Donald Trump. But I really don’t like either of them.

TMS: Did watching this debate influence your vote?

Mike: I knew I wasn’t going to be voting for Hillary, but I considered someone else. After all the things that she’s done — I think she’s gotten away with so much.

Rachel: I would say the previous debates definitely did. I basically started to hate Donald Trump and everything he said regarding women. I just knew I wasn’t going to vote for someone like that.

Will: I was surprised about how well composed Donald stayed and then he started calling her out on a lot of stuff. I looked up the Clinton Foundation, I was like ‘shit.’

TMS: Mike, as a Trump supporter, were there any moments in his debate performance that you disliked? Did you find any particularly strong?

Mike: I wish he wouldn’t interrupt her so much, but at the same time it’s frustrating because she won’t answer questions. I think he would have been better off if he’d acted more professional in that sense. When it comes to specific policy, he kind of stays away from saying anything too extreme. One thing that stuck out to me was when he asked her since she has been doing this for 30 years why she hasn’t done anything. I think that was a good defense to his lack of political experience.

TMS: Rachel, as a Hillary supporter, were there any moments in her debate performance that you disliked? Did you find any particularly strong?

Rachel: No, I think she did well. I think that when she was talking about how Donald Trump was demeaning towards women she had a strong speech about it. I remember listening to it and nodding my head and saying, ‘Yes, this is the woman I voted for.’ Also, he kept trying to call her out on her emails of course, but she was very professional about it. I think she owned up to a lot of things.

TMS: When moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump if he was prepared to concede to Hillary Clinton if he were to lose the election, Trump responded, “What I’m saying now is I will tell you at the time. I will keep you in suspense, okay?” This is an unprecedented response for a major party candidate in a presidential election. How did you react to this response?

Mike: I think this whole thing is slightly different because of all of these leaks and things that have shown what Hillary has done. It’s almost like I wouldn’t put it past her. I think he’s saying the election has been rigged, but he’s not necessarily at the ballot, more in the way that the media has portrayed him. It didn’t bother me too much to hear him say it. It’s on character for him. I think what Trump is trying to capitalize on is how untrustworthy she is. Was it the right decision to say that? Can’t say. It was a very ‘Trump’ way to address the whole thing.

Charles: The comments that he’s making about the election being rigged could be detrimental in the long term. It’s really the only effect he will have left on this country. You have to accept it, though. People have been accepting it since Washington peacefully left the power to Adams. That is a huge deal. It’s ridiculous that he can say it on the stage. I’m worried that after he looses, people are going to be outraged and up in arms against Clinton. That might make it hard for her to legislate. And then in future elections people will think their vote doesn’t matter. We already have low voter turnout and it could be even worse after that.

TMS: Since the last debate, when Trump denied that he had ever sexually assaulted women, nine women have come forward, saying that he either groped or kissed them without their consent. Again, in this debate, Trump denied these allegations, saying he didn’t know these women. What was your reaction to his response?

Rachel: I was disgusted. When you have multiple women and proof of him being like that, it’s common sense. I hate how people are trying to throw it under the rug and ignore it. It’s something we should still be talking about.

Mike:  I’m sure some stuff like that has happened. I’m sure there’s been some. He used to live a huge party lifestyle. I disagree with that, personally, but in my opinion when it comes to a president I don’t care as much about how they used to be. I care about what they get done. That’s what matters. I’m against what he did in the past, but most of his policies I tend to agree with.

TMS: Looking at their performances at the last two debates, do you think either of the candidates improved?

Mike: I think Trump did a good job when Hillary tried to call him out. The thing I like about him is he really seems to not lie about stuff. Obviously he’s not trying to be a politician. He’s saying things with a logical sense to it. When he was a businessman he wasn’t trying to be president. Sometimes your view on what’s right for the country can be different from what you do personally. Everyone’s personal actions aren’t necessarily politically based decisions.

Rachel: I would say both of them improved. They were more professional, both of them. The second debate [my roommate and I] couldn’t stand. We turned it off because of how off-topic and how childish it was — all the bickering. It was a disgrace to see someone running for president acting like that on national television. I think they covered a lot more of the issues this time, and I think the moderator had a lot to do with that, too.

Will: I actually thought that Donald really kept his cool, and I was very surprised by that. And called Hillary out on a lot of stuff. I don’t know how many folks payed attention to the economic parts, but I was like, ‘Damn, wow,’ so I don’t know if this is much of a change but I was surprised with how well I thought Don did and how ‘ehhh’ I thought Hillary did, so very different than the other two debates.

TMS: Many people felt that, although Trump was more composed at the beginning of the debate, he still lost his composure. Did you see this happen, and did it affect your opinion of him as a candidate?

Mike: It’s funny, I noticed this with the second debate, too. He starts off and his opening monologue is so tame. I do think if he were elected he would be more calm. In these races it’s more personality attacks. I think if he were president he would be more controlled. I think it’s frustrating for him because she won’t answer any of his questions. I do see him lose some of his composure. Personally I don’t care, because I listen to what he’s saying, but it probably wasn’t the best for moderate voters. I do think she can compose herself more.

Charles: I was pretty concerned in the beginning of the debate. I thought Trump was really steamrolling the moderator and Clinton. He was talking and talking and talking and nobody was really stopping him. He was on his own soapbox. I was getting concerned because, regardless of whether what he says is right or wrong, people hear him talk and hear him say stuff on a national stage, it makes it valid. It legitimizes what he says and that’s scary, because it could sway undecided voters.

TMS: In your opinion, who won the debate?

Mike: I don’t see one winning over the other because neither of them would answer any questions directly. I feel like they just weren’t answering the questions enough to the point where I could see one person winning.

Rachel: I’d say Hillary. I think last night was her best one. Usually they go off on tangents and get really off topic, and I noticed last night she didn’t do that. She kept her composure whenever Trump would say something demeaning.

Charles: I think Clinton has basically sealed it at this point. It’s just her election to lose — Trump has no chance. For me, her resurgence at the end really was a defining point in the debate. She really pushed and I don’t think he can compete with her 30-plus years of political experience. Clinton won.

Will: Well shoot. I guess Donald Trump. Only because he kept his composure and didn’t take the bait when they were jabbing him with the sexual assault things. And then I saw it and was like ‘wow, he isn’t going for it,’ and kept going back to previous faults that Hillary had while she was a senator. I didn’t see her recover very well.

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