Students and faculty gathered Tuesday evening in the Wallis Annenberg Hall to watch the first Democratic presidential debate.
The event was hosted by the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics, the Political Student Assembly, and the Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy.
After the debate, Dan Schnur, director of the Unruh Institute, moderated a panel discussion featuring former California Assemblywoman Cindy Montañez of the 39th District, former California State Senator Tony Strickland of the 19th District, former president of USC College Democrats Alec White, and the Daily Trojan managing editor Yasmeen Serhan.
The Democratic debate, which was hosted by CNN, featured the following candidates: Hillary Clinton, frontrunner and former secretary of state; Bernie Sanders, junior Senator from Vermont; Martin O’Malley, former Maryland governor; Jim Webb, former Virginia Senator; and Governor Lincoln Chafee, former Rhode Island senator.
CNN’s Anderson Cooper moderated the debate along with Juan Carlos Lopez and Dana Bash, the latter of whom also moderated the second Republican primary debate.
“It’s good to see so many people here today,” said Montañez to the gathered crowd prior to the debate. “Democrats, Republicans, Independents, whatever your political party may be, it’s just great that you’re interested in finding out the different issues that all presidential candidates are talking about.”
Alexandra Schwartz, a sophomore majoring in communication, said she believes the democratic frontrunner can serve as commander in chief.
“I believe Hillary is very qualified to become president,” she said.
Rini Sampath, Undergraduate Student Government president, said she was pleased with the turnout and enjoyed hearing the different candidates speak.
“I personally was interested to see the different debate styles and how the candidates addressed their policies,” Sampath said. “I had a feeling that Bernie was going to have a very upfront, straightforward debate style. So I was really excited about seeing it all unfold this evening.”
Sampath added that she was impressed by Sanders, Clinton and O’Malley’s performance during the debate.
One marked difference between this debate and the second GOP debate was the lack of personal insults and verbal zings.
After the debate, the panel analyzed the performance of the candidates and answered questions from the audience.
“Quite frankly, I think Sanders won,” Strickland said. “I believe Clinton seemed angry and defensive.”
Accepting his potential bias, Strickland added that he did not think Clinton was believable. “What hurt Mitt Romney four years ago is going to hurt Hillary Clinton,” he said.
Moving away from the focus on Sanders and Clinton, White stressed that nothing is set in stone regarding the election.
“Chafee, Webb and O’Malley were attacking Clinton in a ‘take down the frontrunner’ strategy,” he said. “Look at what happened with Rick Santorum. He was polling 1 percent — then he almost won Iowa.”
Serhan addressed Clinton’s “hug your opponent” strategy. “I think she doesn’t want to completely discredit Sanders because there’s a reason people support him. He’s voicing a lot of concerns and grievances that a lot of young Americans have.”
The panel ended on a humorous note.
“Chafee was probably calling his Uber ride by the time the debate was winding down,” Serhan joked.