Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton faced off Wednesday night in the third and final debate preceding the Nov. 8 election.
There was a lot at stake for Trump, who, according to political forecasting by the website FiveThirtyEight, lagged behind Clinton by a predicted 151 out of 538 electoral votes prior to the event’s start.
Luke Graeter, a third-year in public affairs and political science and a self-identified Republican, said he believed Clinton was the victor of this final match-up, which took place at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and was moderated by Chris Wallace of Fox News.
“You can argue about performance, but you can’t get (Trump’s line about) ‘I may or may not support whoever wins this election’ out of the public’s mind,” Graeter said. “People are going to hear that on repeat for days to come.”
Students on the other side of the aisle were naturally more enthusiastic about siding with the Democratic nominee.
“This is another great night for Secretary Clinton,” said Jake Vasilj, president of Ohio State’s chapter of College Democrats and a third-year in political science and history. “Donald Trump once again proved he is not prepared to be commander-in-chief. He continued his same old attacks, lies and act of denying things he’s said in the past. Secretary Clinton focused in on policy in a way that Donald Trump couldn’t.”
Hot topics of the night included the fate of the Supreme Court, immigration, gun control and abortion rights.
While Clinton said she strongly supports the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which overturned prior anti-abortion legislation, Trump staunchly disagreed.
“I think it’s terrible. If you go with what Hillary is saying, in the ninth month you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby,” Trump said during the debate. “Now you can say that that’s okay and Hillary can say that that’s okay, but it’s not okay with me.”
He stated his intentions of packing the court with pro-life justices who he said would overturn Roe v. Wade and leave legislation on abortion rights to the states.
“First, this is the law of the land. We decided Roe v. Wade is the law of the land, and Donald Trump’s justices would roll back Roe v. Wade,” Vasilj said.
The candidates also combatted each other on their economic platforms.
Whereas Clinton said her proposal includes raising national minimum wages, making college debt-free and initiating a jobs program to grow infrastructure, Trump said his intention is to cut taxes universally and renegotiate trade agreements such as NAFTA.
“(Clinton’s) tax plan mostly includes tax increases on higher-income Americans, and (still) it is dubious whether she would be able to pay for all the things she is proposing to do,” Graeter said. “I certainly think college access is important, but I don’t think free college is necessarily the path to take (regarding that).”
Given recent accusations by Trump that the election may be rigged, Wallace asked the candidates to address the validity of the election and its eventual results.
“If you look at your voter rolls, you will see millions of people that are registered to vote … millions of people that are registered to vote that shouldn’t be registered to vote,” Trump said.
Clinton vehemently disagreed.
“This is not the way our democracy works. We’ve been around for 240 years. We have had free and fair elections,” she said. “We have accepted the outcomes when we may not have liked them. And that is what must be expected of anyone standing on the debate stage during a general election.”
Vasilj brought up Ohio’s Secretary of State John Husted, a Republican who has faced criticism from Democrats regarding his practices when clearing voter rolls, in Clinton’s defense.
“We have Republican secretaries of state like John Husted saying that the election isn’t rigged, but we still have Donald Trump with these fringe theories, that’s a little terrifying,” he said.
Regarding Syria, a war-torn state, the candidates took divisively different stances.
Trump spent his allotted two minutes criticizing past and current U.S. foreign policy.
“(Syrians) are being slaughtered because of bad decisions,” Trump said. He went on to blame the exodus of refugees out of Syria on U.S. foreign-policy decisions, and allege that those refugees are “definitely in many cases ISIS-aligned.”
Clinton advocated for a no-fly zone and safe havens within Syria, both in previous interviews and Wednesday; however, some believe these plans might put U.S. troops and warplanes into a direct line of fire.
“It certainly seems there are a lot of complications that go into establishing no-fly zones in Syria.” Graeter said. “There are things we should be doing more of in the Middle East, but they don’t have to be so overtly direct as flying warplanes over Syria in conflict with Russian airplanes.”
Final televised face-offs between presidential candidates have historically had high tensions; however, this one perhaps more so than others.
Breaking tradition, the candidates shook hands neither before or after the debate.
“I think (the nominees not shaking hands) is a perfect summation of where we are (as a country), and the discourse of the campaign” Graeter said.
Local voters have the opportunity to vote early now through Nov. 7 at the Franklin County Board of Elections on Morse Rd., or can wait to cast their votes on election day at their designated polling location.
Nick Roll contributed to this story