Roughly 60 people gathered at the BDN Portland offices on Congress Street to watch the first major showdown of election season on Monday night — and a fair number of Portlanders were left nonplussed by both candidates.
“I thought it was kinda remarkable,” said Julia Stiles, 27. “I didn’t think either candidate was very articulate on the issues.”
Another Portlander, Mondo Parmesan, 35, said that the debate had him excited for alien invasion. But Jeff Marks, 46, wished that the Commission on Presidential Debates would offer viewers a few more terrestrial options.
“My first thought was that I wish there was a third podium up there and people would look at the other options that exist,” said Marks.
Neither Green Party candidate Jill Stein nor Libertarian Gary Johnson had the poll numbers to make it onto the stage in the first debate, but both have made campaign stops in Portland. Johnson is pulling 12 percent of the vote in Maine, according to recent polling. Nationally, many seemed to share Marks’ dissatisfaction with the available options: Google searches for Johnson spiked in the middle of the debate.
Other residents of left-leaning Portland felt that Clinton had bested Trump.
“I think Clinton is a great debater and she had moments with Trump where she really picked him apart,” said Mike Lacourse, 31. “She’s really good at debate but I don’t think that people who support Trump will change their minds.”
Lacourse said he intends to vote for Clinton. And asked if the debate might have changed his mind he replied: “No. I would never vote for Donald Trump.”
Studies on the effect of presidential debates suggest that, like Lacourse, most voters are largely unswayed by what they see on stage. And Johann Sabbath, who brought his shaggy poodle to watch, said that judging the debate was made futile by the wide stylistic gulf between the candidates.
“The mudslinging was intense and it was clearly a television personality, who was uninterruptible, debating a sharp politician,” said the 34-year-old Portlander. “I don’t even know if it was a debate.”