Students gather at Democratic Presidential Debate watch party, react to responses


Zinya Salfiti/The Daily Northwestern

Students watch the Democratic Presidential Debate at Harris Hall. The watch party was hosted by Associated Student Government, Political Union and College Democrats.

Isabelle Kenagy, Reporter

Associated Student Government, Political Union and College Democrats co-hosted a watch party Tuesday night for the Democratic Presidential Debate in Harris Hall that included free pizza and real-time reactions.

Weinberg sophomore and ASG Speaker of the Senate Matthew Wylie said the watch party was similar to past ASG events and was hosted in an effort to get students engaged in national politics. Students who attended said they were interested in various topics the candidates covered, such as health care and climate change.

“We’re excited to get students to engage with the democratic process however we can,” Wylie said. ”If buying a few pizzas can do that, we’re happy to do it.”

Wylie said he looked forward to U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) performance as one of the new frontrunners and wondered if Warren would receive more criticism throughout the debate as a result of her new status as a frontrunner leading a number of polls.

The crowd was dynamic throughout the debate with claps for Warren and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro and boos to businessman Tom Steyer as the candidates walked out. People showed enthusiasm when U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) spoke about climate changes and laughs were scattered as moderator Erin Burnett repeatedly steered the conversation away from reproductive rights and toward job opportunities.

Most dramatic, however, was the reaction to the much-anticipated discussion of former Vice President Joe Biden’s son’s Ukrainian connections. The room quieted as soon as moderator Anderson Cooper broached the topic, and the candidates weighed in on the topic.

Several students also said they found the discussion of health care repetitive. SESP senior Kai Kuo expressed frustration with the issue and said they were disappointed that the candidates talked about health care so much.

“We’re hearing the same debate about Medicare for All versus public option,” they said. “I think that there are a lot more policy issues that could be addressed.”

On the other hand, Communication sophomore Camille Garcia-Mendoza felt health care was a new addition to the campaign conversation, and candidates dedicated an appropriate amount of time to the issue. She said she noticed more of a focus on fighting President Donald Trump in past debates than internal divisions.

However, other students said they hoped to hear more about topics such as positions on climate change.

“I think the debate wasn’t as productive as it ought to have been,” said Weinberg freshman Shruti Rathnavel. “A lot of things that they should have discussed like the climate and environment, they didn’t mention at all partly due to the moderators.”

Rathnavel said she thinks Sanders had a really good night and is leaning toward supporting him. She said she was impressed with the way he diversified his campaign strategy in the debate.

Garcia-Mendoza said she also shares this sentiment and was quick to name Sanders as the winner and said she thinks Sanders is the most impressive candidate, despite Biden being the frontrunner in her opinion.

“I think he’s dealt with the questions much better than the other candidates and has been very clear about his positions,” she said.

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