For the first time, democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and republican presidential nominee Donald Trump will stand before the nation on the same stage and go toe to toe tonight.
The debate could have historic viewership, according to Susan MacManus, national political analyst and USF political science professor.
“They’re projecting upwards of 100 million (viewers), which is just a little bit less than what a Super Bowl gets normally,” she said.
MacManus also said an interesting mark of this debate, is the fact that the projected record-breaking viewership will not just be eyes on TV screens but also live-streaming (on sites like Facebook and Twitter) on phones and tablets, as well as blog posts and other form of media through various technological platforms.
Part of that viewership will be right on campus, as students participate in debate watch parties. One such watch party will held at the Beef O’ Brady’s in the Marshall Student Center starting at 8.
Organizations including For Florida’s Future, Trans Student Union, National Organization for Women, Tri Iota, United Students Against Sweatshops, A.N.G.E.L.S Inc., and the Black Student Union will co-host this watch party.
“I think that it’s important for everyone to be as informed as possible for this election,” Mark McCullough, communications director at For Florida’s Future, said.
“This debate is going to really give USF students a great opportunity to do that, to see … exactly where the candidates stand on these issues and who has the temperament, the experience and the wherewithal to actually be president.”
The Beef O’ Brady’s watch party is open to all students, McCullough said. But Clinton is the preferred candidate of the hosts.
Another watch party will be hosted by USF College Republicans chairman Christopher Happel at his residence, Magnolia E, room 301 at 9 p.m. Usually the organization rents out a room in the MSC, but this year they decided to move it to Happel’s on-campus apartment.
The USF College Republican’s watch party is open to anyone. Those wishing to attend can contact Happel via phone or email to be let in. There will be food. The watch party is something Happel said the organization finds important.
“It’s really important to all of our members and us as the College Republicans, we’re the Republican representatives on campus, to support our nominee in the first presidential debate,” Happel said.
The debate will draw the eyes of millennials and college students, MacManus said, because of the issues being discussed: employment, the economy, the environment and foreign policy.
McCullough said the debate is an important opportunity for students to educate themselves on the issues.
“This election cycle, we have seen two different campaigns that are being run in the general election and … the debates are really an opportunity for people to see what happens when someone has to answer real questions about real policies and solutions to real problems and not just be able to rely on their talking points,” he said.
MacManus feels that the eyes of debate viewers will focus not only on which opponent has views and policies which more closely align with their own, but also the way the candidates handle themselves and each other.
“You want to see how someone who’s going to be a world leader is going to interact with someone who doesn’t agree with them necessarily and how they talk to each other, how they look at each other,” she said.
“It’s very, very important in measuring up leadership and temperament and both of those characteristics are things that people look at when they’re choosing a president.”
Happel stressed the idea of the election’s importance due to the two very different paths the nation could take as a result, and said he feels it is important to elect a candidate that reflects one’s own values and beliefs.
McCullough said the Beef O’ Brady’s debate watch party will also have information on registering to vote. He encourages students to participate in the upcoming election.
“We only have one presidential election every four years and sitting this one out means that, you know, for the next four years you can’t get upset with what happens coming out of the White House if you don’t participate and if you don’t vote,” he said.
Happel said the debate is important considering the close race between Clinton and Trump.
“… As everybody can see that’s watching the election, the election process play out, the polls are really close between Clinton and Trump and debates are watched by – it’s projected to be watched by over 100 million people tomorrow night – so it could really turn the tide one way or the other depending on the performances (of) the candidates, so we’re really looking forward to seeing how everything plays out tomorrow,” Happel said.
The impact of the debate won’t truly come to light until a few days have passed, allowing points made in the debate to sink in and for people who maybe didn’t tune into the debate to view highlights from various sources, she said.
“It will be the talk of every workplace and every gathering at least the day after the debate and sometimes a couple days after,” she said