Bay Area residents embraced the “discussion” and political jabs that ensued from the first presidential debate of the season at Hotel Zetta in San Francisco on Monday night.

The some 200 people gathered at one of numerous watch parties in the Bay Area to watch Republican nominee Donald Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton face off in what many considered a heated debate.

“It’s a pretty exciting year,” said Tina Vossugh, a spokesperson for Santa Clara University, which hosted a free watch party at its Learning Commons at the University Library.

In the hotel, five large plasma screens were surrounded by couches and chairs that were quickly filled after the doors opened shortly after 5:30 p.m. The lounge made for conversations among viewers.

The event was hosted by Inforum, a division of the Commonwealth Club and Brigade, a social media platform that bills itself as “the world’s first network of voters for political engagement.”

“It was nice; it was good to be out of the house and kind of watching what other people’s reactions would be,” said San Francisco resident Erick Armbrust, 25. “The political process needs a little bit more discussion; it needs people to be around each other.”

The excitement and anticipation of the crowd was palpable — though it was clear which candidate most viewers supported. “Hillary” and “Trump” buttons were scattered in piles on the tables, where mostly only Trump buttons remained by the end of the event.

The crowd became subdued when the debate began. A cheer went up when the candidates entered the stage.

Hillary Clinton’s comment on “trumped-up” trickle-down
economics was among the first remarks that elicited laughter from the crowd. Another rise came after Clinton said Trump lives in his own reality.

Among the many comments, Clinton’s remark about a man who gets provoked by a tweet got the loudest crowd response. Another was when Clinton defended her stamina against Trump’s accusation by listing off a long list of accomplishments.

By the end of the debate, many in the crowd felt both candidates elicited information that came in the form of both education and entertainment.

“I think it was informative,” said Maggie George, 22, of Berkeley. “There wasn’t a lot time for educational stuff because there was so much time spent on rebuttal. [But] I think it went really well.”

Bay City News contributed to this report.

Patrick Fitzgerald
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Patrick Fitzgerald

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