Baton Rouge area residents react to first presidential debate

Baton Rouge area residents react to first presidential debate
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - It was one of the most anticipated showdowns of the season, outside the Superdome. Presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump met head to head for the first presidential debate Monday night.

While political experts say debates usually don't hold much sway over voters, this year's close race may be a little different.

Michael Henderson, an assistant professor of political communication at LSU, points out that most people who watch the presidential debates have already chosen their candidate, but that trend may not hold for this race.

"What could make this one different is we have more undecided than we often do at this point. There are a few more people up for grabs," Henderson said.

However, Trump and Clinton faced an additional challenge in Louisiana by competing against Monday Night Football and the New Orleans Saints who were playing in the Superdome on an emotional anniversary.

"The fact that Monday Night Football gets a pretty good viewership may mean that not as many, although the Donald Trump show has been hard to resist," Henderson said.

Still many voters felt the hotly contested presidential race was too important to ignore. Many expected the debate television audience to rival that of Super Bowls.

A handful of debate-viewing parties were held around Baton Rouge, primarily among clubs or political groups. A few Trump supporters gathered at George's Restaurant.

One viewer, Thomas Schiro, described himself as a conservative but open-minded on his choice for president. He also felt Trump captured a lot of voter concerns on the economy.

"Donald Trump is expressing the concerns of many Americans who are not happy with the trade deals, who are not happy with taxes. Taxes are too high, the trade deals are unfair," Schiro said.

Meanwhile, viewers at a watch party hosted by the Louisiana Democratic Party felt Clinton shined on social issues, particularly race relations.

"Especially saying that racism is a systemic issue and that bias is found in all people," said voter Lama Hantash. "That has been an important thing to put up in discussion."

The Louisiana GOP did not host a party-wide watch party.

Unlike the Saints game, a clear winner of the debate won't really emerge until November when voters go to the poll. The October 11 deadline to register is fast approaching.

"It's important to make sure their registration is right. It's easy to check,," said First Assistant Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin. "We look forward to everybody participating in the election, all 4.2 million people."

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