With a handshake, a pause to pose for photos and a walk to their respective podiums, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump got off to a cordial start for the first national presidential debate.
Students gathered across campus for watch parties both partisan and non-partisan, but student opinions after the debate tended to fall on party lines.
The debate, which was held at Hofstra University, had the candidate’s agreeing with each other on some issues, showing stark differences at other points and, at some points, turning to personal attacks.
Monday night’s debate was moderated by Lester Holt divided into six different 15 minute segments. There were three topics, the country's direction, achieving prosperity and securing America.
Questions asked at the debate included job creation, tax increases and cuts, race relations, temperament, the Iraq war and other issues relating to Clinton’s emails and Trump’s still not yet having released his tax returns.
The two candidates were also asked about race relations, where Clinton mentioned plans for criminal justice reform and gun control.
Trump talked about his support of stop and frisk and the number of shootings in cities like Chicago, saying the nation needs to bring back “law and order.”
Jordan Pride, a senior majoring in political science and an intern with For Our Future Action Fund, said the discussion on race relations was especially important to her.
“I’m definitely in (agreement) with Hillary Clinton and her views on criminal justice reform (and) also with the racial divide,” Pride said. “It bothered me also that we heard very little from Trump on Black Lives Matter… and really no acknowledgement to these disasters that are happening in these cities and these atrocious killings by an institution or a collective organization that is supported through our government.”
Holt brought up Trump’s questioning whether or not President Barack Obama was born in America, even after his birth certificate was produced. He said he felt he did the nation “a great service” by having Obama produce his birth certificate. Clinton commented that the birther controversy was not a good one.
“(Trump) has a long record of engaging in racist behavior,” Clinton said. “And the birther lie was a very hurtful one. Barack Obama is a man of great dignity and I could tell how much it bothered him and annoyed him that this was being touted and used against him.”
Trump questioned Clinton’s stamina and her ability to be president of the U.S.
“(Clinton) doesn’t have the look,” Trump said. “She doesn’t have the stamina. To be president of this country, you need tremendous stamina.”
As for the general performance of the candidates, supporters on either side had different views.
“I thought Trump just brought his A-game,” said Krishna Sharman, a freshman majoring in biomedical sciences. “… Trump just absolutely blew her out of the water.”
Sharman said he especially supported Trump’s plans and statements on ISIS, calling the group “a cancer to our society.”
Scarlett Haynes, the president of the USF College Democrats and a senior majoring in political science, said she thought Clinton had better answers to Holt's questions than her opponent.
“I definitely think Hillary provided concrete evidence throughout all of the questions and we are seeing Donald was swerving around all of the questions and wasn’t really answering all of them,” Haynes said. “… Some moments I did kind of feel sad just thinking about the outcome, what could it be, what we’re all thinking, like what’s going to happen on Election Day. So there was kind of that feeling too but at the same time I kind of was really confident that Hillary was bringing everything she’s ever done throughout her career… it like radiated off of her.”
Though Haynes personally favored Hillary as the winner, she said the debates are necessary for voters to be able to make educated decisions come November.
“Everyone could hear both sides of the story,” said Haynes. “… I’m really looking forward to the next debates to come. It definitely is giving society a chance to see our future leader and like how they act in situations like this.”
Pride shared this emphasis on voting. At the watch party at Beef O’ Brady’s that For Our Future, a pro-Hillary organization, hosted, information on voter registration was made available to those in attendance.
“We’re (For Our Future Action Fund) trying to push as many voter registration numbers that we can get and we’re really pushing the millennial vote this election because we know the millennial vote can really shift this election, especially being that we’re in wonderful Florida and we’re here at the University of South Florida where we can really make or break an election,” Pride said.
At the conclusion of the debate, both Clinton and Trump said they would support the outcome of the election.