SPARKS, Nev. (AP) — As a tumultuous campaign nears an end, undecided voters across the country watched the final debate of the U.S. presidential race with a mix of skepticism and rapt attention Wednesday night.
Some hoped that rather than trading barbs, the candidates would focus on important issues such as immigration, the economy and bipartisan gridlock.
Others said Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump would did little to change their minds, and maintained they might not vote at all.
“Neither one of them is going to come to my house and take my guns,” said Chadd Bunker, 50, a union truck driver for UPS who watched the debate from his living room in suburban Sparks with his wife, Karen, 53, a staunch Democrat. “If one of them could promise the stock market won’t go down, I’d vote for them.”
Here’s what else the Bunkers and others had to say:
A HOUSE DIVIDED
Three weeks before the election, Chadd and Karen Bunker remain among the country’s potentially divided households.
Karen Bunker, 53, an operations manager at a Reno firm, attended her first precinct caucus in January to vote for Bernie Sanders but now strongly supports Clinton.
Chadd Bunker is registered as a Democrat but describes himself as largely politically apathetic. The undecided voter promised his wife he’d watch the debate with her in their living room, but he monitored her laptop for updates on the Dodgers-Cubs playoff game.
Chadd Bunker said he’s not a fan of either candidate, but he doesn’t believe he could be categorized as one of those “angry white men.”
“Angry toward what? Hillary has done nothing to me,” he said.
Chadd Bunker noted Donald Trump didn’t say anything during the first half of the debate that persuaded him to vote for him.
“He wants to be president, but he degrades our system. He degrades our Congress,” he said.
Bunker’s wife of 25 years doesn’t understand how anyone could be undecided at this point.
Trump “has no idea how to run a country,” Karen Bunker said. “He’s building fear in this country to such a crazy level that it scares me.”
SAME OLD SAME
Undecided voters Damon Holter, 41, a maker of barbecue sauces and marinades, and University of Wisconsin-River Falls student Kyia Britts intently watched the start of the debate in the backroom of Bo’s ‘N Mine bar and grill in River Falls in western Wisconsin.
Holter noted that Clinton and Trump again did not shake hands when they took the stage.
“He’s just like a little kid,” Holter said when Trump began speaking.
Holter later said the GOP candidate did a better job than in the first two debates. “I think that Trump has stepped up his game and really got Hillary flustered,” he said.
Still, when Trump talked about the U.S. border with Mexico, Holter scoffed. “The whole notion of a wall is pretty ridiculous,” he said.
Holter disliked Clinton’s comments about Trump mocking a disabled reporter and wondered aloud how many times she would bring up that point.
Britts, 20, who will be voting in her first presidential election, said Clinton was “making a feminist stance that doesn’t need to happen” when the Democratic candidate began talking about Planned Parenthood funding.
Britts also said she thought Trump was being “giant baby” with his allegations about election rigging.
“He’s playing the victim in the situation,” she said.
MORE RESEARCH TO DO
Alanna Conti, a 25-year-old graphic designer from rural Sweet Valley, Pennsylvania, changed her party registration from independent to Democrat so she could vote for Bernie Sanders.
Once the primary was over and her candidate had lost, Conti thought about casting her ballot for a third-party candidate. But she worried about throwing away her vote and is considering backing Trump or Clinton, even though “I dislike both of them very much.”
As she watched the debate at her home, Conti drew two columns on a notepad – one labeled Clinton, the other Trump – and quietly took notes on what the candidates said about the Supreme Court, the Second Amendment and abortion.
Her husband, Gary Earyes, who has already decided, played video games nearby.
About the groping allegations, Conti said: “He says they made it up. I have to look into that more. And he says Clinton hired people to cause violence at his rallies. I have to look that up, too.”
Conti and her husband live in a precinct where many of the homes boast Trump signs. She favors making public college free and universal health care. But she’s also open to middle-class tax cuts and even a corporate tax cut, if it could be shown that would bring back jobs from overseas.
CARES ABOUT IMMIGRATION, HEALTH CARE
Erin Ross, a 36-year-old certified nurse midwife, has always voted Republican: She’s a strong believer in fiscal responsibility and small government, and she’s also pro-abortion rights.
Other key issues for Ross, who has four college and post-graduate degrees, are immigration, health care and character.
But this might be her first election in which she doesn’t cast a presidential vote, and Ross is extremely troubled about that.
Neither Trump nor Clinton is a role model, and the country needs that in a president, said Ross, who watched the debate with her husband, Mike, at their northeast Denver home. She was disappointed in the candidates’ lack of civility.
As an on-call nurse, Ross says she gets less coverage under the Affordable Care Act than the immigrants in the country illegally whom she tends to at Denver’s St. Joseph Hospital. She says they freely tell her they’re there to have “anchor babies.”
She doesn’t support blanket bans. But “it hurts me as a taxpaying American to see that you’re getting excellent health care and I qualify for less quality health care coverage that those coming in.”
On the candidates’ comments about a rigged election, Ross said: “What’s sad is I agree with both. I want facts, not whining that it’s rigged. She owes a lot of people a lot of favors. But I think she’s absolutely right about respect for American elections.”
Anderson reported from Denver. Meg Kinnard in Charlotte, North Carolina, Michael Rubinkam in Sweet Valley, Pennsylvania, and Jeff Baenen in River Falls, Wisconsin, and contributed to this report.