Clinton, Trump supporters view debate through lens of a long campaign

For Henry Ciezkowski, the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton on Monday reaffirmed his decision to switch his party affiliation last year to Republican.

"He's not giving a textbook answer," said the Edgemere man, one of several dozen Trump supporters who gathered at Dempsey's Brew Pub and Restaurant at Camden Yards to watch the debate.


"The established politicians? They're going to give you a professional answer, a scripted answer," he said. "I think people want somebody real, down to earth."

But Inez Robb, a retired federal employee from West Baltimore, said the often heated exchanges between the candidates reinforced her worries about Trump's unpredictability.


"I don't think we'd need a country of surprises," said Robb, attending a Democratic debate party at the Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel. "I think some of our allies that we have now won't be our allies. We'd be in more wars than ever — domestic, international and global."

Supporters of Clinton and Trump who gathered at opposing watch parties within a half-mile of each other in Baltimore viewed the back and forth entirely differently, and largely through the prism of their own expectations of each candidate.

Clinton was either a policy expert with the cool temperament needed in uncertain times or a corrupt insider representing everything wrong with Washington. Trump was either a change agent poking his finger at the establishment or a hustler stoking racial tension on his way to the White House.

Democrats cheered when Clinton described her opponent's economic policy as "Trumped-up trickle-down."


Republicans, surrounded by Fox News and hot wings, roared their approval when Clinton suggested she might be blamed for everything and Trump fired back, "Why not?"

Both applauded and jeered as the debate quickly became spirited.

"Donald Trump famously claimed that 'if she treats me with respect, I will treat her with respect,'" said Richard E. Vatz, who teaches political rhetoric at Towson University. "That attenuation of aggressiveness lasted about 10 minutes."

Vatz noted that Clinton started the attacks with the "Trumped-up" line. As the debate grew more rowdy, so did the watch parties.

Gabe Cazares, 24, hollered at Clinton's attack about Trump refusing to release his tax returns.

"It begs the question: What has he been hiding in his business dealings so far?" Cazares asked.

Cazares said Clinton articulated how her policies would affect everyday Americans, and how Trump's would not. As a gay Latino with a disability, he said, "there's a lot at stake in my communities. Mr. Trump has demonized me."

Lisa Bland, a 42-year-old Essex woman, said she would have liked to see Trump criticize Clinton more forcefully on her time as secretary of state.

"He did well hitting her back in a diplomatic way — short and sweet," Bland said. "But I would have liked to see him calling her out more."

One thing supporters of both candidates appeared to have in common: a deep distrust of the opponent, and a fear of what would happen to the country if that opponent won.

Nine in 10 Maryland Republicans had an unfavorable view of Clinton in a Goucher College poll released last week. Ninety-one percent of Democrats said they dislike Trump.

Sherri Weems, a Dundalk retiree, said she is worried about what a Clinton presidency would look like.

"I don't want to see us succumb to government rules — them interfering in our private lives all the time," she said.

"I thought [2012 GOP nominee Mitt] Romney was weak," Weems said. "Trump is very strong. He's his own man. He reminds me of Reagan."

Voters turned out for debate watch parties in large numbers throughout the state Monday, even though Maryland is about as swingless in national elections as it can be. State Republicans have to look back to 1988 — when voters chose George H.W. Bush over a beleaguered Michael Dukakis — for the last time state voters sided with their party in a presidential contest.

The most recent poll conducted in Maryland, the Goucher Poll, found Clinton leading Trump among likely voters by 58 percent to 25 percent. That 33-point margin was slightly larger than in the 29-point gap in a poll conducted by OpinionWorks in August.

The polling in Maryland also underscores just how polarizing both candidates have become: Even though Clinton is significantly ahead in Maryland, 46 percent of voters hold an unfavorable view of her.

Seventy-six percent of state voters view Trump unfavorably.

Trump has visited the state once during the general election campaign — a brief stop this month to speak to an association of National Guard leaders and have lunch in Dundalk with a handful of elected Republicans. Clinton has not appeared in the state for a public event since before the state's April 26 primary election.

Both candidates have spoken recently about issues important for Baltimore, including education, poverty and policing.

Trump, the self-proclaimed law-and-order candidate, called last week for an expanded use of stop-and-frisk, a tactic that was controversial in Baltimore and criticized by the U.S. Department of Justice in its report on the city's policing last month.

Clinton has proposed national standards for use of force, particularly lethal force, though it is unclear what that guidance might look like or whether there would be any repercussions for local police departments that choose to ignore it.

As Trump discussed stop-and-frisk again on Monday, a woman at the Democratic party yelled "You're so bad!" A few stools down, state Sen. Catherine Pugh, the Democratic nominee to become Baltimore's next mayor, threw her hands in the air and shook her head.

"He doesn't understand that stop-and-frisk doesn't work," said Prudence Johnson, a Democratic activist. "If you're stopping me, frisking me, because I'm black, how does that help anyone?"



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