Utah Republicans, UNLV observers weigh in on final presidential debate

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LAS VEGAS — Candidates’ performance at the final debate on Wednesday, Oct. 19 did little to change voters’ minds one direction or another.

Balloons fall from the ceiling of the UNLV Student Union Center at the end of the final presidential debate watch party. (Gianluca Cuestas)

Both members of Utah’s congressional delegation as well as community members gathered at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas watch party said they were not swayed. Utah Sen. Mike Lee said the final debate has not altered his opinion of the candidates. Lee has been outspokenly critical of a Trump presidency.

“I had hoped that Donald Trump would latch on, that he would decide to become a champion of federalism and separation of powers,” Lee told the Daily Universe. “As far as I can tell he never got there and that is independently concerning to me. … I think he is unelectable and I think he needs to step aside.”

Lee said Trump’s assertion that the election is rigged frightens him and he has never seen anything like it before.

“I think it’s frightening beyond my ability to describe,” Lee said. “It’s almost an anticipated repudiation of the outcome of the election. … It delegitimizes the entire process in a way that is really dangerous.”

Las Vegas community members observe the final presidential debate from the UNLV Student Union Center. (Gianluca Cuestas)

When asked in what areas Lee and Clinton could find common ground to work together for the people of Utah should she become president, Lee said he will work with her in a similar way to how he has worked with President Obama.

“Hillary Clinton, for the most part, would preside a lot like President Obama has,” Lee said. “While President Obama and I don’t agree on a lot of things, we have found some areas where we have been able to work together. I was the author of the USA Freedom Act, which was passed into law last summer and signed into law by President Obama. He and I agreed on that.”

“I also agree with President Obama’s need for criminal justice reform within the federal system,” Lee said. “I am one of the lead champions of the effort going on in Congress right now. If that doesn’t pass into law in this Congress and before President Obama leaves, I would hope that that might be something we could work with the next president to accomplish.”

Congressman Jason Chaffetz, though unable to to watch the presidential debate due to his own local debate held at Utah Valley University Wednesday night, commented on the state of the election.

“I’m in the NeverHillary camp,” Chaffetz said. “I think she is the worst president we could possibly select, so I’m just out of the endorsement game. People can make their own decision for their own selves.”

Chaffetz pulled his endorsement of Trump after a recording of Trump making a series of lewd and sexually charged comments about women surfaced.

“Its one thing to support somebody, but to actually endorse them, I just couldn’t do that,” said Chaffetz.

Should Trump become president, Chaffetz would like to work with him on public land issues as well as energy development within Utah.

UNLV Students, as well as other Las Vegas community members observe the final debate at a watch party in the Student Union Center on campus. (Gianluca Cuestas)

“I want to work with him on public land issues,” Chaffetz said. “It’s a big deal in Utah and it needs to be addressed. Energy development is also something that would bolster the Utah economy.”

When asked whether or not he believed he could find areas of common ground to work together with Clinton for the good of Utah, Chaffetz said, “We’ll try, but they are going to be few and far between. I hope she understands and respects the role of Congress. She can’t just make it up as she goes along as President Obama has done. There is a process and I don’t know that she’ll respect that process.”

According to Chaffetz, Trump’s concerns about voter fraud remind Americans to be vigilant. While he doesn’t believe Utah will have a problem with a rigged election, he believes there are places that need to be watched closely from all sides.

“Ringing the warning bell ahead of time is a reasonable thing to do so that we can continue to enjoy a process of integrity,” Chaffetz said. “I expect (honesty) would be the case, but it’s always important to be vigilant and make sure and watch.”

Those gathered at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Student Union Center, stood in groups following the debate, discussing the events that had just transpired. Sandra Wolf from Mendocino County California said that she felt the debate merely confirmed the opinions she previously held about Donald Trump.

“I think it solidified my already contemptuous feelings toward him,” Wolf said. “I already disliked him, but I was giving him a chance to maybe get his side on it. He did a poor job because he is such a poor sport. No gracefulness, or class or anything.”

Sonja Clark from Las Vegas expressed feeling more confident in her opinions surrounding Hillary Clinton.

“I think Hilary validated her strengths,” Clark said, “I just liked the fact that she validated for me that she is very knowledgeable and she is perfectly capable of running this country.”

Ryan Williams from Sherman Oaks, California, continued to tout his support for Trump throughout the evening, and explained that he felt polling surrounding the election would not be trustworthy before or after the final debate. He believes there are more quiet Trump supporters than are recognized.

“I was pretty vocal in there as a Trump supporter, and I would see people turn around and look at me,” Williams said. “And I saw a few scowls and glares, but mostly I saw smiles and I thought, ‘why aren’t you being noisy?’ You’ve been told to lay down and keep nice and quiet if you’re a Trump supporter. …But I think when push comes to shove and it’s just you versus the ballot box, people are going to be voting Trump. … I think Trump is in the process of creating a landslide victory.”

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