By Nicole Kirkner
Students from different backgrounds-who all have varying political views-respectfully came together for the final presidential debate watch party at Hoff Theater on Wednesday night.
About 200 students attended the UMD College Republicans hosted event. Other hosts included Maryland Discourse, MaryPIRG, the Society of Professional Journalists, Students for Liberty and Young Americans for Liberty.
Jacob Veitch, the chairman of College Republicans, wants the organizations to inform students before they venture to the polls in a few weeks. He said that this was the main motivation for the partnership between student organizations for the debate watch parties.
These numerous organizations have sponsored watch parties for all three presidential debates this election cycle, encouraging students to participate in the process by giving them an opportunity to become engaged in a setting that is both entertaining and informational.
“It doesn’t matter to me who you want to vote for to be president; if you have an opinion and you’re informed, that is valid,” Veitch said. “We are looking for ways to work together with other student groups so [that] we can get students involved in the process, because the most important thing is that everyone is involved.”
Audience members, many of whom are first time voters who will vote in this presidential election, watched the candidates engage in the highly anticipated final debate. Many of the answers elicited cheering, clapping and even laughter.
The debate began with an open discussion about the Supreme Court and the Second Amendment, a key issue for many voters this election cycle, since the next president will potentially pick two new justices for the Supreme Court.
There were mixed reactions throughout the audience, but many students cheered when Donald Trump said he believed in upholding the Second Amendment, and would even push for less restrictions on gun ownership.
A key issue for college students, both Clinton and Trump agreed that college is unaffordable. Clinton’s plan was favored by many students in Hoff, especially when she mentioned it was created with Bernie Sanders, who made affordable college a top priority in his own presidential campaign.
The sexual assault claims against Trump were also brought up by moderator Chris Wallace, to which Trump said that there is “no one who has more respect for women,” making many in the audience laugh.
“Some of the reactions that were in the audience – I wouldn’t have ever thought of reacting in the way some people did,” said Josh Korbelak, a junior government and politics major.
The candidates, between policy discussion, made many jabs at eachother, with Trump calling Clinton a “nasty woman” and a “liar,” and Clinton saying Trump cries with “crocodile tears” when he doesn’t win. She cited his history of claiming competitions were rigged and also mentioned his three year loss at the Emmys for his television show, The Apprentice.
Many considered this debate better than the previous ones, and felt that the candidates talked more about the issues, but they still said that they expect more out of the two people who are looking to run this country.
Veitch, like many, is undecided on who will receive his vote, and said that the candidates should focus on the issues and have a “substantive debate with policy discussed.”
Many other students, however, are certain with who they are voting for, and the final debate has not changed their decision.
Sam Koralnik, a government and politics major, was pleased with Clinton’s performances in all of the debates, saying she “doesn’t need to enumerate on any more policy.”
“This isn’t about her trumping Donald Trump on policy,” he said. “This is about her, at this point, not messing it up.”
There are some students who don’t support Clinton or Trump, and are voting for third-party Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.
“It’s not fair to only include Democrats and Republicans in these debates – especially when the candidates don’t represent a lot of the population,” Thomas Montgomery, a freshman economics major said. “[Johnson] is on the ballot in all 50 states. He should be allowed to debate.”
Many students agreed with Korbelak, saying that they are just “happy that the debates are finally over.”