Dave and Fay Minert of Kuna opened their home to friends Monday night to watch the first Clinton-Trump debate.
Everything was red white and blue, even the Rice Krispies treats. There was debate bingo, gag gifts, stress balls to toss at the TV — and yes, those started flying early on.
The crowd was definitely more weighted against Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump. But as the evening wore on, ambivalence over both major-party candidates became the theme.
“I’m dissatisfied by both candidates and tonight, I’m still dissatisified by both candidates,” said Val Batteen.
“I think America’s the loser with these two,” Fay Minert said. “I can’t see anything positive.”
That sentiment carried over into two other local debate-watch gatherings Monday night, during the first of three such meetings between Trump and Clinton before the November election.
Students gathered at Boise State laughed at many parts of the night — particularly Trump talking about his temperament. But “it’s like two children fighting,” social science and criminal justice major Mike Roybal declared. “... There’s no good candidate from any party. It’s almost like a nightmare.”
Clinton’s response to Trump attacking her stamina also got a big ovation at BSU. Over at the College of Western Idaho, where its national-award-winning speech and debate team gathered to judge the candidates’ performance, Trump’s jab elicited a wince.
“That’s going to hurt him,” Aleli Snivley said.
Personal attacks aren’t a part of debate, team members said. When they happen, the best response is to leave them alone, said Chris Tucci.
“He’s stepping on his own foot,” added teammate Remington Grunewald.
As for the rest of the night? Three members of the team said Clinton had more command of information and Trump wasn’t showing depth. Snivley said she had a hard time listening to Clinton. No one was ahead, she said.
When Trump pledged to release his tax return if Clinton produced emails deleted off of the private server she used when she was secretary of state, he scored, Snivley said. “He voices what he feels.”
About 225 students showed up at Boise State. Organizers had planned to have one large panel discussion after, featuring university experts on history and political science. But that changed when the room spread out into small groups to digest the debate, said Justin Vaughn, assistant professor of political science.
The panelists mulled what they saw as well. Jill Gill is a BSU history professor who teaches on religion, race and social movements. She said she was surprised at Trump’s appeals to African Americans “because he has so little support from them.” She saw it as him buffering himself from charges of racism.
“I don’t think there was a winner tonight,” Vaughn said. “Clinton was more substantive than Trump but she took potshots too. Trump was like you would expect. There were no good guys.”
Not all were completely miffed by the debate. Back in Kuna, as things wound down, host Dave Minert spoke about what he took away from the evening.
“To me this will demonstrate which direction our country’s going to go,” Minert said. “Is it going to go in the direction that President Obama has taken the last 8 years, which I believe has been misdirection? Or is it going to be a new direction? While I guess I don’t understand exactly where Trump will take it, I’m confident that he has the right instincts and his people will lead us in the right direction.”
The next presidential debates are Oct. 9 at Washington University in St. Louis, and Oct. 19 at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. There’s also one vice-presidential debate, planned for Oct. 4 at Longwood University in Farmville, Va. All debates start at 7 p.m. Mountain.