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Texans Size Up First Televised Presidential Debate

Texans were among the many millions who last night joined in the political equivalent of a football tailgater.  They put on their favorite candidate t-shirts; grabbed drinks and plates of food, and settled in for 90 minutes of head-butting and territorial tackles.

TPR has two reports on how Texans sized up the this first televised presidential debate.   Shelley Kofler has reaction from Republicans in Bexar in County.  And Ryan Poppe started out at a long-time Democratic watering hole in Austin where hundreds cheered on Hillary Clinton.

Credit Texas Tribune

The crowd at Scholtz’s Biergarten in Austin  was at times a little rowdy and loud.  When Clinton spoke they’d cheer.  When Trump said something in response they’d yell at the television screens.

Scholtz’s staff says the crowd size of Monday night’s event rivaled the attendance level at some of the football watch parties for UT home games.

Austin Democrat David Weinberg says one of the biggest takeaways from the debate was seeing how prepared each candidate was for the debate.

“I just think that Hillary Clinton has come to this debate prepared for a general election debate with the contrary, Donald Trump sounds like he is rehashing everything I heard in a thousand Republican debates, so that’s one thing that is stuck in my mind,” Weinberg said.

When the candidates were questioned about  race  and police relations  in African American communities, Kirya Francis, a black woman, said  Clinton had a better grasp on the situation.

“Trump seems to think that we all live in certain neighborhoods that are basically unsafe, that we are all living in poverty and that we need some sort of savior.  So it’s nice to hear that Sec Clinton is casting a wide net and showing diversity,” Francis said.

Most attending the Democratic watch party are solid Clinton votes.  But Macelyn O’Connell says even after watching the debate, she isn’t sure who she’s voting for.

“I think I’m definitely still undecided, I wasn’t rooting for either candidate,” O'Connell said.

O’Connell says the debates are a great opportunity for  voters to become more familiar with the candidates, but she says she wants to hear more about how the candidates will help young voters like her.

Farther south in the state, Bexar County residents also fanned out at debate watch parties.

At the national convention, Bexar County Republicans were divided in their support for Trump. But only the true believers showed up at the debate party, though supporter Karen Marshall acknowledged Trump would need to rein in his sometimes harsh, insulting rhetoric.

During the 90 minute matchup supporters, in Trump shirts cheered approval. John Brant said Trump successfully portrayed the former secretary of state as a political insider with a line he repeated several times.

"One stand out was that she had her opportunity for 30 years to get things done and she didn’t accomplish anything except increase her personal bank account," Brant said.

Frank Montez and Raymond Tolbert gave Trump high marks for strongly criticizing the U.S. brokered Iranian nuclear deal which Clinton supports.

"She wasn’t very responsible for the state of the Middle East is which is horrible," Montez said.

Vivien Brown said Trump’s call for NATO countries to pay their fair share of mutual defense costs was on target.

Many political pundits said Clinton’s performance  had clearly trumped Trump.  But Republican National Committeewoman Toni Anne Dashiell of Boerne liked what she saw.

"He sounded very presidential, board room, very strong, very knowledgeable and controlled the debate," she said.

Dashiell thought Trump did what he had to do to rally Republican supporters in Texas.

Ryan started his radio career in 2002 working for Austin’s News Radio KLBJ-AM as a show producer for the station's organic gardening shows. This slowly evolved into a role as the morning show producer and later as the group’s executive producer.
Shelley Kofler is Texas Public Radio’s news director. She joined the San Antonio station in December 2014 and leads a growing staff that produces two weekly programs; a daily talk show, news features, reports and online content. Prior to TPR, Shelley served as the managing editor and news director at KERA in Dallas-Fort Worth, and the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.