STORY BY SARAH LEBLANC
November 14 was not a typical Saturday night for college students at Drake University. Hundreds of people, including community members, filtered through security beginning at around 6:30 p.m. for a seat close to the projector screen hanging from the ceiling of Parent’s Hall in upper Olmsted to watch the second DNC debate live from Drake’s Sheslow Auditorium.
After the debate, Hillary Clinton was expected to make an appearance and speak with her supporters, which served as a substantial draw for students and Des Moines residents alike.
Lindsey Gilberg, first-year actuarial science major from Saint Paul, Minnesota, joined her friends at the Hillary watch party despite identifying as a Republican.
“I just think its cool to be able to see candidates at Drake no matter what your political views,” Gilberg said. “It’s cool to have the debate on campus and to be able to interact with candidates.”
The watch party served as Gilberg’s first, motivating her to stay through the entirety of the debate.
“I watched the whole thing at the watch party so it was interesting to see how the different candidates interacted with each other and their different views on policy,” Gilberg said.
For Hughes, first-year law, politics and society and politics double major from New Virginia, Iowa and self-professed Hillary Democrat, his position as the president of Drake Students for Hillary and the sense of unity a watch party affords drew him out to the event.
“It’s a sense of community, it’s a shared experience especially,” Hughes said. “And then to see Hillary of course I think that probably built most of the attendance.”
The watch party also surpassed Hughes’ expectations in terms of attendance and commitment to Clinton’s campaign.
“There was standing room only, they had to get more chairs,” Hughes said. “There was a huge presence of not only Drake students but other citizens who were coming to the area because they were coming to meet Hillary and hear her speak after the debate, as well as just watching with fellow Hillary supporters.”
In addition to students and community members, interest groups elevated the already electric atmosphere of the room.
“There were people from the National Education Association, ASME was there, Moms Demand Action was there,” Hughes said. “So there were these interest groups that were really revving up support for Hillary showing that she’s the best candidate for education, for working people, for gun sense so that really helped bring up the atmosphere.”
Though Hughes noted that the amount of people watching the debate was fewer than the previous debate and coincided with a Hawkeye game in Iowa, he was satisfied with Clinton’s performance.
“The debate was very good, it was so good it was boring,” Hughes said. “(Hillary) is going to be a stalwart fighter for the middle class and she is not going to give up until the fight is won.”
With several watch parties occurring simultaneously on campus for the different campaigns, many students filtered over to the Hillary watch party at the end. This was the case of Thalia Anguiano, a junior law, politics and society and public relations double major from Benseville, Illinois, who came from a different watch party in order to meet Hillary.
“(The watch party) was super lively. You could tell that everyone in there was a Hillary fan,” Anguiano said. “Everyone was super excited and anxious to see her and … jumping over chairs to get to the front of the stage to take a picture with her.”
The debate’s presence on Drake’s campus was instrumental in drawing students who did not receive a ticket through the lottery to watch parties across the university.
“I definitely think that having the debate on campus affected the attendance rate of the watch parties,” Anguiano said. “I don’t think there would have been as many Hillary people up there if Hillary wasn’t five minutes away from Olmsted.”