Students’ final thoughts on election candidates

Jacob Boyko, Reporter (He/Him)

As the contentious and bitter presidential campaigns enter their final stretch of the race, voters all around the country are weighing their options and casting their ballots.

Thursday night’s presidential debate, moderated by NBC’s Kristin Welker, was President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden’s last nationwide opportunity to make a pitch to the remaining undecided voters who will ultimately decide the winner of the election in just under one week.

Two politically active South Dakota State University students, Blake Kennington and Grace Nelson, shared their thoughts on the final debate and what effect they predict it will have come Nov. 3. Kennington is leaning toward Joe Biden’s ticket, citing the forward-thinking policies regarding nuclear energy, the plan to combat climate change and “not inciting racial division.”

“Trump has a really abrasive personality and his personal quirks have not made this country any better and has not improved our reputation on the world stage,” Kennington said.

Nelson, on the other hand, is leaning toward Donald Trump’s ticket and highlighted the president’s foreign policies and her overall distaste for the Democratic ticket as main factors.

“I prefer Trump’s policies and firm hand on foreign affairs. I think he’s a businessman first and a politician second,” Nelson said. “I think Biden has been in politics too long and too much of his identity comes from being ‘Obama’s right-hand man.’”

In the debate, the candidates discussed their plans on handling the COVID-19 pandemic, race relations, election security and climate change. Both Nelson and Kennington agreed the debate was more constructive because President Trump took on a much more relaxed demeanor compared to the first debate, which critics say was marred by interruptions and incivility.

“In general, Trump had a higher tendency to interrupt than Biden did. I think Trump presented himself as the more fiery and energetic candidate while Biden presented himself as much more calm and less aggressive,” Kennington said.

Nelson agreed, saying the president was more “restricted” this time, but argued Biden had the better debate overall.

“The debate showed me Biden’s more respectful and polite character. Because of his decorum, I think he performed better overall,” Nelson said.

Though they agreed that Biden presented himself in a way voters will find more appealing, neither thought the debate was anything other than a draw.

“Trump was able to give surprisingly concise answers, especially compared to the last debate,” Kennington said. “I think Biden’s worst moment was his comment about phasing out oil, which I think will benefit Trump in battleground states like Texas and Pennsylvania with a huge dependency on oil.”

In Nelson’s opinion, Biden didn’t win the debate because of his poor policy representation. She believes that the former vice president is “swayed easily” and would be a puppet for the more liberal wing of his party.

Nelson and Kennington walked away from the debate with the same Nov. 3 plans they had going in.

“I’ve been following the election cycle for so long and I know what I like and dislike about both of them, so nothing in the debates really shocked me,” Kennington said.