Presidential Debate Season Captivates USF

Quentin Coppola

Contributing Writer

At USF, the Presidential and Vice Presidential debates are captivating events for the community.  For many USF undergraduate students, this is the first presidential election in which they are able to vote. As the nation inches closer to the Nov. 8 election, feelings regarding the race have been mixed.

A myriad of national polls have Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump nearly neck and neck in terms of support. RealClearPolitics published an average of eight major national polls on Oct. 9 which shows Clinton at 47.5 percent and Trump at 42.9 percent support. In such a tight race, small actions have major consequences, and in the presidential debates, small actions can very well turn into determining factors in the outcome of the election.

A crowd of students, teachers and community members alike have congregated in the first floor of the UC for every debate so far.  As people fixed plates with fruit and chips, their eyes focused on the screens. Onlookers observe with much trepidation, as if they were watching Sunday Night Football. After each debate, a political discussion ensued concerning the turbulent election cycle.

After the Vice Presidential debate, Urga Miller, a 70-year-old yoga instructor from Argentina, commented on the debates up to that point, saying, “I’m coming from my country, which is very full of corruption and political manipulation, and I find it hard to believe in the current political system.” Although she isn’t registered to vote, she provides insight some voters can relate to– i.e. the current race has been turning unpleasant.

Urga added, “I’m very concerned for the future generation regardless of this election’s outcome. It’s so unpleasant that these politics dig into personal attacks to gain political ground. I would ask if people really believe in this stuff?  Do they believe what these people say? Do they believe in the results?”

After the VP debate, sophomore Benny Fung from Bayview said, “I literally saw it as two similar-looking and acting guys, debating on polar opposite sides. I found it amusing that they were spending more time on attacking ‘the other side’ rather than supporting themselves and their candidate’s own policies.”

Fung had a reluctant projection after the VP debate. “I think Tim Kaine won, but that might be my bias. I’m planning on voting for Clinton, she’s like the lesser of two evils,” he said.  

Last Sunday, the two major presidential candidates squared off in St. Louis in the second debate. In an arguably more impassioned debate about taxes, e-mails, leaked tapes and moderator interruptions, Trump and Clinton shared the stage for a town hall style discussion. Amy Dundon, a Master’s student studying public affairs, remarked, “After this debate I would say Hillary Clinton is more polished and performed better. She was poised and is very expected from a career politician. She also didn’t interrupt. I was underwhelmed by the vice presidential debate and I was surprised that Kaine seemed kind of yapping and interrupting. I thought the first presidential debate set the tone for the rest of these debates.”

Jeffrey Paller from Minnesota, Assistant Professor in the Politics Department expressed, “This campaign has been something I’ve never seen before. It’s worrisome from a democracy perspective, i.e. the norms of politics and what is legitimately changing. This new racist rhetoric, new authoritarian rhetoric, is uncomfortable.” Paller mentioned that the best remedy to this is to register to vote and head to the polls.

Dundon voiced similar opinions saying,  “Reflexively, I want to say I’m terrified. Because of the audacity of this week, and specifically, one of the candidates, and their legitimacy of their candidacy has come into great question. What’s even scarier is that it’s not about him, it’s about the climate of our country, politically speaking.”

Although many are unsettled by this upcoming election, some are approaching it from a more lighthearted viewpoint. A group of USF students watching the second presidential debate were playing a presidential bingo— crossing X’s on a game board boxed with “Trump sniffles loudly” and “Hillary says Trump was living in another world”.

The final debate is on Oct. 19 and will be shown on the first floor of the University Center.



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