Debate Reveals Differences Between the Candidates

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore, Wikipedia

The first of three presidential debates was held this Monday night at Hofstra University. The debate hosted by Lester Holt, NBC news anchor, highlighted the major differences between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump—not just political differences, but personal and stylistic differences as well. A crowd of Ramapo students gathered in Friends Hall to watch the debate live during an event sponsored by Fox News, the Civic and Community Engagement Center and Alpha Phi Delta.  

“Even if you don’t understand a word of what the candidates are saying, you get to see who they are as people. And that is one of the most important things when considering who to vote into power as leader of the free world,” Nick D’Ambrosia, senior, said.

According to, approximately 84 million people watched Clinton and Trump go head-to-head for the first time. This number surpasses Jimmy Carter and Ronald Regan’s previously record-holding 1980 debate by 3 million viewers, making Clinton and Trump’s the most-watched presidential debate in history. People have tuned in to watch presidential debates since 1960, when John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon took the stage live for the first time, changing the way candidates needed to prepare for elections—a debate some historians argue changed the face of politics. However, it is highly debated whether or not candidates’ television demeanor—or televised debates in general—make a difference at the polls.

“Historically, debates don’t matter,” New York Times Reporter Adam Nagourney live-tweeted Monday night. “And you could argue this year less than ever—because people know these candidates so well.”   

If Nagourney’s correct, many viewers may have already been familiar with Clinton and Trump’s stances on topics such as the economy and trade, while about 91% of Americans know who they are voting for before the first debate.

When faced with the topic of trade early on during the night, Trump was what New York Times political Reporter Michael D. Shear called “aggressive” during his analysis of the debate. Trump, summarized by Shear, claimed “that for 30 years she’s [Clinton] been part of the power establishment in Washington D.C. and should have done more to help average Americans.”  

“The NAFTA agreement is defective—just because of the tax and many other reasons…Secretary Clinton and others—politicians—should have been doing this for years,” Trump said and Shear included in his analysis.

When criticizing Trump’s economic ideas, Clinton used the phrase “Trumped up trickle down” economics.

“I'm really calling for major jobs, because the wealthy are going to create tremendous jobs,” replied Trump. “And by the way, my tax cut is the biggest since Ronald Reagan. I’m very proud of it.”

The issue of Trump’s tax returns, as well as Clinton’s missing emails was brought up as well.

“I will release my tax returns against my lawyer’s wishes when she releases her 33 thousand emails that have been deleted,” Trump said.

Clinton responded directly to the popular topic of her emails more apologetically: “I made a mistake using a private email and if I had to do it over again I would, obviously, do it differently,” she said.

Moving on to race, considerable time was spent on the issue of President Barack Obama’s birth certificate as well as stop and frisk and how it was found unconstitutional.

“We have to bring back law and order. Now, whether or not in a place like Chicago, you do stop and frisk which worked very well…in New York,” Trump said.

Clinton, however, spoke out against stop and frisk:

“Stop and frisk was found to be unconstitutional…Too many young African American and Latino men ended up in jail for nonviolent offences and it’s just a fact that if you are a young African American man and you do the same thing as a young white man, you are more likely to be arrested, charged, convicted and incarcerated,” Clinton said. “So we’ve got to address the systemic racism in our criminal justice system.”

The debate, lasting over 90 minutes, covered even more topics and both candidates had plenty to say.

It is reported by Time that there were 84 interruptions made Monday night by Clinton, Trump, Holt or the audience. Of these 84 interruptions, Trump made 55 while Clinton made only 11. Holt interrupted Trump 30 times while only interrupting Clinton 19 times.

“You’re wrong,” Trump simply said while Clinton was talking about crime rates dropping. He argued that murders were actually on the rise. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, murders increased 10 percent in 2015 from the previous year.

But overall, murders are at a low point over the past 30 years.  For example, according to NPR’s Justice Correspondent Carrie Johnson, murders in New York are relatively low compared to the 1980s and 1990s. Trump’s ability to relay accurate facts became a component of the debate itself, as Clinton plugged her website during the debate:

“I kind of assumed that there would be a lot of these charges and claims,” Clinton said. “And so we have taken the home page of my website,, and we’ve turned it into a fact checker. So if you want to see in real time what the facts are, please go and take a look.”    

Trump also asked people to check out his website.

Clinton was not alone in checking debate facts. Outlets such as NPR, and also offered fact checks for viewers.

For students still unsure, another opportunity to judge the candidates will arise on Sunday, Oct. 9 as Clinton and Trump face off for the second time at Washington University in St. Louis, MO.