By Spencer Rumsey, Jaime Franchi & Christopher Twarowski
A random sampling of Hofstra University students who watched the presidential debate on a giant projector screen inside its main dining hall Monday gave Hillary Clinton the nod for outperforming her rival, Donald Trump, during the 90-minute contest held on campus nearby.
“Trump was all over the place,” Chinenye Oguejiofor, a 20-year-old senior majoring in finance, told the Press minutes after the historic, oftentimes heated showdown. “She was strong, powerful, composed. She has her facts.”
“Donald Trump kept going on and on about different things,” explained Daniel Maldonado, a junior from Texas. “He wasn’t really answering the question. Hillary went straight to the question.”
“Hillary won by a mile!” said Kemi Anazodo, a 19-year-old freshwoman majoring in mass media studies, global studies and geography. “She knows what she is talking about, and she tells us exactly what she is going to do. I know what to expect from her presidency. Trump is an isolationist.”
Cheyenne Davis, a junior from Baltimore, agreed with Anazodo’s assessment of Trump’s foreign policy.
“He’s definitely going to create problems with different countries, and we don’t need that right now,” she said. “So Hillary is best for us.”
The first of three such presidential debates this election cycle—and a record-setting third consecutive for Hofstra—was characterized by frequently tense barbs between Democratic nominee Clinton and Republican Trump, with topics ranging from national security and race relations to the state of the economy and foreign policy (and Trump’s refusal to make public his tax returns), among others. The matchup was moderated by NBC News anchor Lester Holt.
Students packed the university’s cafeteria to view the two candidates battle it out and broke into collective applause and cheers on several occasions, most notably when student debt and criminal justice reform were discussed. They laughed loudly when Trump proclaimed he had a “much better temperament” than Clinton. She rebuked him with a comical “Whooo, okay. ” Then she followed up his assertion by saying: “A man who can be provoked by a Tweet should not have his fingers anywhere near the nuclear codes.”
On the home front, two Hofstra students, both from the Bronx, took issue with Trump’s dire description of urban conditions for African Americans like them.
“I think that African American communities have a lot of problems, but they also have a lot of promise,” said Adrie Bailey, who just graduated with a degree in finance. “I am a Democrat, but in another election I could vote for a Republican, but not Donald Trump, because he doesn’t care enough about the African American community. He doesn’t care enough about the voters whose lives are affected by the government to actually learn about the issues and to come up with concrete policy proposals or even an understanding of what those communities face. And that, to me as an African American, is an insult.”
“Just going to a black church once in this campaign season doesn’t really show you the issues,” said Courtney Moore, a senior majoring in journalism. She said she found Trump’s portrayal of her community an insult, and she took umbrage at Trump’s support of the unconstitutional “stop and frisk” police program that disproportionately targeted African American men.
“He thinks he knows the answers better than anyone else, and he really doesn’t,” said Moore. She did offer the Republican candidate some suggestions.
“I think he needs to find better advisors, since he obviously is not an African American male himself,” she said. She wanted Trump to use current statistics when talking about urban crime and not just data from when “Giuliani was mayor.” Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was one of Trump’s invited guests at Hofstra.
Trump’s debating style also came under criticism from this handful of students.
“I think he acted like a child,” freshman drama major Sam Kaufman told the Press shortly after the showdown, concluding that Clinton won “hands down” and came across as “more intelligent” and “more professional” than Trump—noting that she also “didn’t interrupt” moderators, as Trump had.
“I honestly think Hillary destroyed it,” observed Trey Jackson, a junior from Seattle. “Donald Trump either just evaded the question or just tried to attack Hillary. And when he tried to attack her, she usually had a better comeback. Then she went off the comeback into an actual plan.”
“She actually had real answers, and she didn’t get frustrated,” said Moore. “She was very pragmatic.”
“Secretary Clinton crushed it tonight,” added Bailey. “She really forced Trump to fight over the specifics, and he wasn’t able to convince anyone he had the specifics. He started off strong, but she really got under his skin. And I think that’s the whole point. She was trying to show America that he can’t be trusted. He doesn’t have tough enough skin to lead the country.”
Asked about her fellow millennials who reportedly tend to support Green Party candidate Jill Stein instead of Clinton or Trump, Moore doubted that Clinton’s dominating performance at the debate won any of them over.
“If you’re still with Jill Stein, you’re still going to be with Jill Stein at this point,” she said with a laugh.
And that’s an observation that Clinton, who’s trying to be the first American woman elected president, probably doesn’t want to hear.