DENVER (AP) — It’s not the headliners, but some political groupies took time Tuesday to gather and watch the vice presidential debate.
The 90-minute showdown is the only time the two will face off: Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia and Republican Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana.
The contest was expected to have a much smaller viewership than the first meeting between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton last week, which drew a record-setting television audience of 84 million people. But some voters said it was well worth their time.
“One of them will be the second most powerful person in the world … it’s very important to hear what they have to say,” says Carson Clabeaux, 21, a senior at the University of Scranton and president of the school’s Republican club. “I should be studying – but you can always study. There’s only one VP debate, so it was important for me to come see this.”
Here are some of the scenes across the U.S. as people watched the event:
DENVER, Colorado: At Regis University in Denver, a Jesuit school, organizers of a debate watch party at Walker’s pub handed out pamphlets asking for God’s guidance in reflecting on candidate choices before Pence and Kaine began speaking.
Both vice presidential candidates are deeply religious, Kaine a Catholic who served as a missionary with the Jesuits in Honduras from 1980 to 1981, and Pence an evangelical Christian who fought against Planned Parenthood funding while in Congress and signed a state law that many people saw as allowing discrimination against gay people.
Daniel Justin, event coordinator and a faculty member at the Jesuit university, wanted those gathered to reflect on how each candidate’s background can best reflect or assist policy, rather than how stances on abortion funding differ from official church doctrines.
Sean Carroll, a 21-year-old senior accounting major, was disappointed in the debate. He hoped the vice presidential candidates would talk more substance on policy and religion than the presidential candidates. He said he was not voting for either ticket and hasn’t decided what to do.
“I had hoped to see a little more substance,” Carroll said. “To be honest, I see no faith in this debate. They’re shooting over each other.”
DES MOINES, Iowa: Stephen Molitor said he watched the presidential debate last week and thought Trump wasn’t well received because he kept interrupting Clinton. As he watched Tuesday’s debate at a bar, he thought it was a repeat, but flipped.
“I’m not sure if Kaine interrupting Paine is working for him. I think it’s doing the same thing it did for Trump,” said Molitor, 33, who works in insurance. He said he was leaning toward voting for Clinton, but he could also end up supporting a third-party candidate.
“If I was scoring this right now, I’d call it a draw,” said Molitor, who was among the subdued group of about a dozen people at American Legends Grill.
Shelby Doyle also thought the debate could have been more “even-toned.”
“I expected it to be more cordial, but they’re interrupting each other. They’re mostly just talking over each other,” said the 34-year-old college professor who is voting for Clinton.
SCRANTON, Pennsylvania: About 30 students showed up at the University of Scranton’s science building auditorium to watch the debate.
Clabeaux, the Republican club president, said both candidates were “pretty qualified.” But at the end of the day, Clabeaux was rooting for Pence — as a balance for the more bombastic Trump.
“He’s very mild-mannered, very predictable… for Trump, I think he’s a good pick,” he said.
Emily Lundeen, a freshman Democrat studying counseling and human services, came to the watch party to learn more about Kaine. Thirty minutes into the debate, she was both pleased and disappointed with what she saw.
“He seems incredibly personable, and that he really knows what he’s talking about,” Lundeen said of Kaine. “Unfortunately, we’re seeing the same thing as the presidential debate — they’re just attacking each other’s candidates, and I really think it should be focused on policy.”
GAMBIER, Ohio: Those attending a debate watch party at Kenyon College were handed a “Vice-presidential Debate Bingo” card when they entered the venue, a campus art gallery.
The card featured terms or topics that could be explored at the debate. They included: “Benghazi,” ”Mexico will pay for it” and “ISIS.” The first person who’s able to get five across, down or diagonally wins reserved seating to the next debate watch party on campus.
Jess Lane, a Kenyon freshman from Raleigh, North Carolina, said the debate “is not as exciting as the presidential debates, but I think there’s a lot more substance there for sure.”
Lane, a Clinton supporter, will be voting in her first presidential election. She switched her registration from her home state, though, because “Ohio is such an important state.”
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