Bitter debate left voters unhappy


Days after explosive revelations about Donald Trump’s predatory comments about women and Hillary Clinton’s closed-door speeches to banking executives, some people who watched the U.S. presidential debate Sunday night were so disgusted they said they wouldn’t vote or were weighing a third-party candidate or write-in option. “I feel that it is wrong that these are the two choices I have,” said Patrick Trombetta, a Bernie Sanders supporter trying to decide between Clinton, Green Party candidate Jill Stein or writing Sanders in on the ballot. Here are stories of voters watching the debate around the country: LOOKING FOR A CONSERVATIVE IN NEVADA John Burns, 42, is a registered Republican and self-described conservative upset with his choices because he said both seem like Democrats. He took in the debate from a Las Vegas restaurant at a watch party organized by the Clark County Republican Party, where attendees howled with laughter as Trump attacked Hillary Clinton. Raised Mormon, Burns works at a casino and uses a wheelchair after being paralyzed in a motorcycle accident. He said his disability can make it hard to get jobs, and the thought of people taking welfare benefits or abusing the system bothers him. Burns said the 2005 video in which Trump bragged about women letting him kiss and grope them was off-the-record “locker-room banter” and thinks women can be just as bad in private. “I think it shows a human side. I think it’s the politicians who are trying to make a political point,” he said. Burns pumped his fist as Trump described a plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. His deductible went from $500 to $3,000, and his boss told him it was a result of the law. But he also said he doesn’t “believe Trump’s conservatism. I think it’s what he’s saying to get himself elected.” THE VERDICT: Burns said he’s “almost ready to just sit this vote out because I’m so fed up with both sides.” CRINGING IN ARIZONA Sarah Parsons Fein, 38, of Tempe, Arizona, had one word for Sunday night’s debate: “cringe-worthy.” “The whole thing is just terrible for me; it’s like a car accident you can’t look away but you want to,” said the 38-year-old stay-at-home mom. Fein wasn’t swayed by Trump brushing off his vulgar talk about women as “locker room comments.” “I think that just perpetuates rape culture,” she said. THE VERDICT: Fein plans to vote for Clinton after supporting Sanders in the Democratic primary. BACKING A DIFFERENT WOMAN IN PENNSYLVANIA Cheyanne Dawson, 22, of West Chester, Pennsylvania, watched the debate with co-workers at a restaurant and said it didn’t change her disdain for both candidates. “They’re not good representations of what we want them to be,” Dawson said. Clinton “just says what people want to hear, and so does Donald Trump, but you want someone to be genuine, authentic, and I don’t think either of the candidates are like that.” She is especially disappointed with Clinton because she has high expectations for the first female president — “someone you can look up to” — and thinks Clinton lies and lacks passion. But Dawson dismissed Trump immediately as a “social media” phenomenon with bizarre policies that “wouldn’t benefit us.” THE VERDICT: She plans to vote for Stein. DISILLUSIONED IN PENNSYLVANIA Matthew Forsythe, 26, a freelance digital marketer and website designer, is torn between voting for what he sees as a “sad,” unhinged reality TV star and a “mechanical,” secretive political insider. He watched the debate with his friend Zack Rodgers in a bar in West Chester. Rodgers, a Democrat who supported Barack Obama in 2008, is voting for Trump because he says he just can’t trust Clinton. Forsythe defended her, saying fact-checkers said her statements were truthful. Still, “there just seems like a lot of unanswered questions,” Forsythe said of Clinton, particularly her email servers. Though Forsythe thinks Trump would do better with the economy, he’s worried that Trump is “lacking empathy” with other cultures. The 2005 video in which Trump bragged about women letting him kiss and grope them because he is famous didn’t faze Forsythe, who’s more worried about his lack of experience. “He’s said derogatory things about people throughout his entire campaign, so one more derogatory statement that comes out is like — ‘OK.’ I feel desensitized to the type of rhetoric I keep hearing,” Forsythe said. THE VERDICT: Forsythe left disappointed and no closer to deciding whom to vote for. RELUCTANT VOTER IN MICHIGAN Andy Fox, 24, a server at Lansing Brewing Co., said he supported Sanders “to try something new” and is reluctant to vote for Clinton or Trump because “they’re both criminals.” Fox watched parts of the debate during his shift in Lansing. He said it did not assuage his fear that regardless of who is elected, “something really terrible is going to happen” in the next four years. With Clinton, he said, there will be “more wars” and with Trump, a “racial divide.” Fox credited Clinton for talking about health care, but otherwise “it’s just like high school banter” between the candidates — much too personal criticism and not nearly enough policy discussion, he said. THE VERDICT: Fox said he probably will not vote. LISTLESS LIBERTARIAN IN COLORADO Elliot Fladen, 36, a lawyer in suburban Denver, doesn’t know if he can bring himself to choose Clinton but he says he can’t vote for fellow Libertarian Gary Johnson because he’s scared Trump may win. “I’ve never voted for a Democrat in my life,” Fladen said before the debate. “But can I sit by and let this delusional con-man Donald Trump become president? I don’t think I can.” Fladen, whose wife was born in Mexico, started reviling Trump’s approach to international affairs after he insulted Mexican immigrants. Fladen frequently shook his head during the debate, laughing when Trump said he respects women. But he didn’t warm to Clinton, either. “Every time Hillary Clinton opens her mouth, half of me wants to gag and say, ‘I could never vote for this person,'”

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