Staff Debate: Who won the presidential debate?

Dusty Hartl and Kimberly Wethal


Yes, there was a Presidential Debate last Monday night where our two major party candidates bickered for an hour and a half – but there’s no room to argue as to who won.

As I waltzed around the University Center ballroom with my camera, photographing the viewing party, my eyes were focused on students through my viewfinder, but even with a divided attention, I could sense that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton had the upper hand.

Clinton kept her cool when a man with zero political experience tried to explain to her – a law degree-holding public servant and former chief diplomat to the United States, behind President Barack Obama – how the government worked. She focused on the work she wanted to do for the country, instead of turning her moments of the debate into an infomercial about her accomplishment. As Trump forewent important policy conversations to instead boast about his income, his new hotel in Washington, D.C. and mentions of how he loved American cities because he had made business investments there.

I glanced up at one moment to see her jotting down notes, in order to properly respond to her opponent. She was poised and prepared.

However, I’d like to focus just on policy, because that’s what this election should be about. Personality attacks don’t change our country, policies do. While yes, Clinton dished out her fair share of personality attacks toward Trump (because that’s politics), she ran circles around him on her policy stances. Here’s how:

First and foremost, it’s easy to rant about what’s wrong with our country. It’s harder to create plans and policies to fix it.

What I liked about the majority of Clinton’s responses is that she laid out concrete plans for creating jobs and fixing racial divides. She argued the country needed to invest in their workers and sectors where the country has the room for economic growth, such as the clean energy sector, and to increase taxes on the rich to optimize the revenue (see: the Laffer curve).

Trump did nothing but tear her down (and tear our country down in the process), attempting to ridicule her for being transparent with her plans for the country to the American people.

Perhaps I wouldn’t feel this way, should Trump have remained focused on his plans for economic prosperity, racial divides and security, instead of concentrating all of his speaking time on degrading our country, and Clinton for her transparency – when he wasn’t bragging about himself, that is.

In those moments of transparency and laid-out solutions to our nation’s issues, Clinton was presidential – and I believe it’s the strongest case of her win last Monday night.

Away from my election night coverage, I rolled my eyes as Lester Holt continuously had to stop Trump and ask for the third or fourth time to drift back to the question at hand as he spoke about his business accomplishments instead of giving the American people the answer they deserved.

There was never a moment where Clinton had to be reminded by Holt to stay on track. Not only did it demonstrate a level of trust and transparency Clinton has struggled with throughout the primary and beginning of the general election, but it put her a cut above Trump, who actively worked to dodge questions and went down rabbit holes.

Clinton made reasonable goals throughout the debate.

Part of the reason why Clinton was able to make those reasonable goals is because she did her homework. Granted, she likely didn’t need to do much studying, because active participation in our state and national governments in the past three decades allows her the experience to talk on issues because she was present, but she did her research anyway.

Doing that research allowed for her to present reachable goals: She urges investment in clean energy. She’s realistic in the context of global trade practices, knowing that trade is beneficial to our economic prosperity. She acknowledging that trickle-down economics and deregulation in the wrong areas of business led to the 2008 financial downturn, and knows focusing on the middle class’ prosperity does not equate to tax cuts for those at the top.

Knowing the mistakes of the past and being fluent enough to present them to the American people only boosted Clinton’s ability to follow up with reasonable goals and plans to achieve them for the Americans she’ll serve.

-— Kimberly Wethal, Co-Editor in Chief


On Monday, Sept. 26, two candidates for the presidency of the United States of America, battled to the death to regain glory for the office of the president. Okay, that didn’t happen, but a lot of insults were flung and it was difficult to understand if it was actually
a debate.

One victory did stand out though and that was Donald Trump. To his poise and answers, from his actions to his authenticity, he was by far the only candidate to shine.

As someone who has watched every presidential debate since 2008, both primary and general elections, it was clear before the debate began that this would not be like any other debate. Walking the floors in the residence halls, it became apparent that the consensus was that Clinton would reign supreme.

As I would pass through groups of huddled residents, whispers began to occur about the clear differences between Trump and Clinton. Until this point it was clear hardly any of the residents had actually heard Trump speak.

At one point when Trump brought up Clinton’s emails, an attack Sanders often avoided, I saw a lot of head nods in agreement. The residents began to see what they were denied during the primary.

Retribution for the lack of disagreement with Clinton’s and the Clinton foundation’s actions. Retribution for the many lies that have been shoved down our throats for the last year.

We could discuss the obvious differences in Trump’s and Clinton’s policies, but that is a classic argument. Let us move on to their different debate approaches.

From the very beginning it was obvious that Clinton was arrogant through her debate technique. She belittled Trump by calling him “Donald” and mocking his economic policy by calling it “Trumped-up, trickle-down economics.” She had practiced her attacks and used many of them for the debate.

At one point she said “Well, Donald, I know you live in your own reality, but that is not the facts,” following him pointing out her hypocrisy on the TPP.

While Clinton was focusing on personal attacks, Trump let his ideas on policy speak for him. He called her Secretary Clinton throughout the debate and even mentioned wanting her to “feel happy.”

During the debate someone mentioned how Clinton came off as arrogant. She even questioned earlier in the week why she wasn’t 50 points ahead in national polls. Even many of the polls after the debate show that Trump outperformed her. 

Clinton’s hypocrisy really did shine through during the debate. From her rejection of support for the TPP to her lack of responsibility for her email server.

Meanwhile Trump took full responsibility for his audits and his tax loopholes. It was obvious who was more “presidential.”

In my opinion, a presidential candidate should be judged based on their ability to take responsibility for their actions. While Clinton dodged the questions about her previous statements, Trump charged his head on.

The debates to come, I believe, will only get better. Trump is only two points behind Clinton nationally and that gap will close in the
coming month.

Strong leadership is a quality that is needed for this country and Clinton proved during the debate that she does not have it. Her points, ridicule and lack of accountability showed and shined.

Being able to memorize a script and a few insults is not how a presidential candidate should be judged. They should be judged on how they handle themselves during the times of feeling uncomfortable.

If medals were awarded during the debate, Trump would have taken the gold.

— Dusty Hartl, Opinions Editor