LAS VEGAS — Many voters looked to the third presidential debate for Republican nominee Donald Trump to discuss policy.
“Hillary’s trying really hard to make Trump’s policy fall into the background,” said Kylie Johnson of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “I think that Trump really needs to focus in on his policy and so far we haven’t really seen a lot of that.”
Some voters have been concerned about a lack of policy discussion in the first two debates. While some may point to a difference in debate style and preparedness, others like Jared Stevens of UNLV think it’s a matter of unequal representation from the news media.
“Wikileaks and Project Veritas, that are exposing what’s going on with (Clinton) and the media is giving it very little coverage,” said Jared Stevens, a UNLV junior student at a pre-debate show.
As Americans anticipated the final presidential debate on Oct. 19, Stevens described what he views as an unequal focus on controversy between the two candidates.
“Some of these allegations from these women, they already assume, they play judge jury and executioner,” Stevens said of allegations against Trump. “They always give (Clinton) the pass; the benefit of the doubt.”
There has been a wide variety of reaction, especially in Utah, where one independent candidate, Evan McMullin, has seen a meteoric rise in the past week alone. Weekend polls put him ahead of Gary Johnson and Hillary Clinton.
As the final debate loomed, one poll from Emerson College showed McMullin now in the lead in Utah with 31 percent of the vote, compared with Trump and Clinton’s 27 and 24 percent, respectively. The polling showed a margin of error of about 3.6 percent.
Johnson’s third party run has seen polling in his home state at numbers between 19 and 24 percent. The Libertarian candidate has polled nationally at about 8 percent, according to the latest poll by IBD/TTIP.
While Johnson may make for a somewhat close race in New Mexico, his overall effect may be decided if his voters go with either Clinton or Trump, where his numbers often cover the polling spread between Trump and Clinton. As has often been the case, the race has come down to convincing true undecided voters, and the Republican Party may need to address a third party issue this time.
The reaction by many Republican groups have been problematic to the Trump campaign. The refusal of support from prominent Utah Republicans, who comprise a regular conservative stronghold, have been telling of the attitudes even among party loyalists and have changed the dialogue within Utah. With the reaction of Paul Ryan and his focus on maintaining control in Congress, the strategy has begun to shift.
“We’ll finally focus on the elections that matter,” said BYU College Republicans communications officer Vanessa Oler before the final debate.
Oler summed up the look of the BYU chapter as a diverse one that would see a wide degree of choices, while ultimately hoping to see conservatism triumph.
“We support the party platform, and we want to make sure we are advocating for Republican values,” Oler said.
According to a shock poll of post-debate reactions from the BYU College Republicans, Trump is no longer the favored candidate. With a ranking of preferences from first to last, McMullin trails just slightly behind Trump in a selection of first picks, but is a strong preference for a second choice, and has an overall preference score of 3.25 to Trump’s 2.43.
Even Johnson, who has recently fallen in Utah polls after McMullin’s big week, has a preference score of 2.5. Among these college Republicans, Clinton still remains the last choice with a preference score of 1.83.
“Hillary carries herself more presidentially, but I think for the first time I saw real potential in Donald to be a president,” Oler said.
At the watch party on the BYU campus, Oler said the best reactions came from Trump’s performance in the first half of the debate. On the other hand, Trump’s comment about not necessarily accepting the results of the election came as a shock to viewers. While Oler mentioned the statement was in line with Trump’s reality TV personality, it detracted from what might have otherwise been 90 minutes of good discussion.
The moves by various Republican figures to distance themselves from Trump’s statement about the election results may begin to exacerbate an already fragmented base. The Cornell College Republicans caught much attention over the summer when they chose to endorse Johnson rather than Trump.
The move, at the time, led to the decertification of the campus club. Since then, the New Mexico College Republicans followed the move, endorsing Johnson after a controversial videotape showing Trump bragging about his conquests with women was released.
“Since Donald Trump got the nomination, he has really failed to accurately represent conservatism in his position as the nominee,” said Ryan Ansloan of the University of New Mexico College Republicans.
The UNM College Republican Club was not decertified for choosing to support Johnson over Trump. They cited much of the immediate controversy surrounding Trump as the reason why the transition wasn’t problematic.
The entirety of the campus group, with one exception, was receptive to the idea of endorsing Johnson, according to Ansloan. The single outlier simply stated a need to make no endorsement and stay silent on the matter.