The LaFortune Student Center Ballroom was packed Sunday night as Notre Dame students gathered to watch the second presidential debate in a series of three leading up to the 2016 presidential election. The debate watch was part of this year’s Notre Dame Forum, which is centered around the election and, specifically, the debates of the 2016 election cycle.
ND Votes co-hosted the debate watch.
Sophomore Olivia De Sonne Ammaccapane said she believes watching the debates is a necessary component of being a good citizen and staying abreast of current events.
“It’s definitely a civic responsibility to be as informed as possible,” De Sonne Ammaccapane said when asked why she came to the debate watch.
During the debate, presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump responded to questions from debate moderators and pre-selected audience members spanning a variety of topics, including the recently released recording of Trump making lewd comments about women from 2005, Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state, Muslim immigrants to the U.S., tax provisions and the landscape of the energy industry, among others.
Sophomore Jeffrey Murphy said the debate was a decisive win for Trump.
“While this debate was not as policy-focused as one would hope, Trump finally took the opportunity to capitalize on the hypocrisy of the Clinton campaign,” Murphy said in an email. “As expected, much of this debate revolved around the latest public obstacles faced by both campaigns: the tape of Trump making lewd comments about women in 2005 and the release of hacked emails by WikiLeaks divulging excerpts of Secretary Clinton’s private Wall Street speeches.”
Murphy said he wished the debate had focused more on policy.
“At a time when the American people are craving a discussion of policy and law, it was unfortunate that this meeting between the candidates left little time for policy specifics,” Murphy said. “ … It is especially unfortunate that this debate was not more focused on policy discussion, because that is where Trump, and his America-first policies, really shine.”
Sophomore Jackson Hignite, who also attended the debate watch, named Clinton as the winner of the debate.
“Clinton performed better; it was hard to follow Trump as his responses were erratic,” Hignite said.
Although the debate was filled with jibes, interruptions and attacks from both sides, Greg Wall, a chef who works at Legends, said the debate ended on a note of graciousness when an audience member asked each candidate to give a compliment about the other. Clinton responded by complimenting Trump’s children, while Trump praised Clinton’s persistence.
“The last question was a really nice change of pace, they actually said something genuine,” Wall said.
Preceding this debate watch, there were two previous watches held on campus: one, hosted by the Notre Dame Forum and ND Votes, for the first presidential debate, and the other, hosted by ND Votes, Notre Dame College Democrats and Notre Dame College Republicans, for the vice presidential debate.