JFK Forum Draws Large Crowd for Democratic Debate

The divide between presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, frontrunners in the Democratic race, came to life beyond the Las Vegas venue on Tuesday night when supporters from both sides gathered for a debate watching party hosted by the Institute of Politics.

Cheering and applause was about even for the two leading Democratic candidates in a packed John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum.

Democratic Watch Party
Students crowded the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum to watch a screening of the Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas on October 13, 2015.

Perhaps the loudest and most unified response in the room was to Sanders’ declaration to Clinton that “the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn email,” which elicited widespread laughter and applause from the crowd.

Support for the other candidates who participated in the debate—Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, Virginia Senator Jim Webb, and former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee—was scant.

One of the strongest reactions to O’Malley was applause when he rebuked “Donald Trump folks.”


Other major topics touched on during the debate were gun control, race, inequality, and the Iraq War. When moderator Anderson Cooper mentioned consumption of cannabis, the room exploded with laughter.

“Tonight we saw candidates who have real visions for this country and can offer great leadership,” president of the Harvard Democrats Jacob R. Carrel ’16 wrote in an email. “Tonight’s candidates’ willingness to explain the reasons behind each of their policies underscores why they are legitimate candidates, and why many of the candidates in the Republican debates are simply not viable leaders for the American people.”

David K. Kilstein ’16, a member of Harvard United For Bernie, said, “support for Bernie has been doubling since May…quicker than for any other candidate.”

Watching the Debate
Viewers of the first democratic presidential debate crowded the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum to watch a live screening of the event in Las Vegas on October 13, 2015.

President of the Harvard College Republicans Aaron I. Henricks ’16, who attended the IOP watch party, said he was underwhelmed by Sanders’ performance and the debate overall.

Peter C. Wright ’19, who identifies as a libertarian, also said that he was disappointed in Sanders’ performance.

“Clinton is more articulate than I thought she would be,” Wright said, adding —

apparently jokingly — that he would vote for O’Malley in 2016.