The great room of the Healey Family Student Center was packed with around 500 students Monday night for a watch party of the first debate between Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
The watch party, hosted by the Georgetown Institute for Politics and Public Service, featured commentary from President Barack Obama’s former campaign press secretary Ben LaBolt and former Republican National Convention chief digital strategist Mindy Finn.
The event was cosponsored by the College Democrats, College Republicans and Independent Journal Review.
Held at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., the presidential debate broke the record as the most-watched in United States history with more than 80 million viewers. The 90-minute debate consisted of six 15-minute segments, covering three topics: achieving prosperity, America’s direction and securing America.
The debate broached topics including the economy, national security and the various scandals surrounding both campaigns, including Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state and Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns.
Prior to the debate, LaBolt reflected on the implications of the unprecedented number of viewers watching the debate.
“The campaigns are predicting 60 million viewers will tune into the debate for the first time, which brings into question the importance this debate will have on influencing the campaign,” LaBolt said.
Media outlets including The New York Times predicted the debate could bring in as many as 100 million viewers.
Finn said the nominees’ performances in the debate could have a significant impact on voters’ intentions.
“Voting begins earlier and earlier in each cycle. Not only does this debate matter in terms of that undecided group, but people might decide and vote tomorrow based on what they see tonight,” Finn said.
Clinton said she would make the economy fairer by raising the national minimum wage and guaranteeing equal pay for women’s work. She further criticized Trump for repurposing the principles of trickle-down economics, a policy popularized during Ronald Reagan’s presidency in which taxes were cut for upper tax brackets in an effort to stimulate the economy.
“The kind of plan that Donald Trump has put forth would be trickle-down economics all over again.
In fact it would be the most extreme version,” Clinton said. “I call it Trumped-up trickle-down economics.”
The conversation then shifted to the topic of race relations. Trump stressed the importance of imposing law and order in assuaging racial concerns in the United States.
“We need law and order. If we don’t have it, we’re not going to have a country,” Trump said. “In inner cities, African-Americans, Hispanics are living in hell because it’s so dangerous. You walk down the street, you get shot.”
Toward the end of the debate, Trump questioned Clinton’s abilities to serve as president, claiming she lacked the stamina to be president. Clinton recited the exhaustive schedule she endured as secretary of state to combat his claim.
“As soon as he travels to 112 countries and negotiates a peace deal, a cease-fire or even spends 11 hours testifying in front of a congressional committee, he can talk to me about stamina,” Clinton said.
Jaclynne Nader (NHS ’18) said each candidate had different strengths and weaknesses during the debate.
“At the beginning I thought Hillary came off as robotic and smug, but she improved later on,” Nader said. “Trump did better at the beginning, but at the end became more aggressive.”
However, Jawad Pullin (COL ’18) said he doubted that the debate would have a significant influence on American voters.
“I still think the election is going to be close, and the same voters who are repulsed by each candidate only found more reasons to be repulsed by them tonight,” Pullin said. “I doubt they will change who they were voting for.”
Charles Hajjar (MSB ’20) said he enjoyed the debate and the atmosphere of the debate watch party.
“It was really cool to be surrounded by people of all political and ideological backgrounds and watch the debate together — definitely something I’ll remember for a long time,” Hajjar said.