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May 25, 2019

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Undecideds find little help in debate

Caucus watchers

Richard Brian

Jan Strout, left, and Lauren Mayeux watch the debate at the Applebee’s on West Charleston Boulevard. They were part of a group of voters with a particular interest in health care issues.

MSNBC Debate Spin Room Reaction

Democratic campaign leaders put their spin on the debate. (En Espanol: Reacción al Debate de MSNBC)

Outside Support

Some of the most interesting sights and sounds of the Democratic presidential debate didn't come from Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, or Barack Obama on the inside of the Cashman Center. Instead the trio's supporters, along with a large legion of Dennis Kucinich backers, made their views, votes, and vocals known on the outside.

Jon Ralston's analysis

2008 Caucus Coverage

The political fellowship flowing on the stage at the Cashman Center on Tuesday night might have warmed the hearts of the three Democratic presidential candidates, but it frustrated voters who watched on TV, hoping the debate would provide a final, defining moment before Saturday’s caucuses.

From a group of health care advocates watching at a restaurant to young adults gathered at a high school, few felt moved to change their candidate loyalties.

“It could have been a lot more feisty,” said Lynn Vertner, 51, a Las Vegas real estate agent without health insurance whose bills from breast cancer and a burst appendix in the past year are piling up.

“I’m listening to hear who is going to put words into action,” she said at an Applebee’s restaurant on Charleston Boulevard, where a dozen members of Nevada for Health Care, an advocacy group, gathered to watch the debate on TV. They were hoping to discern who would make health care reform a priority.

Before it began, Vertner was waffling between Clinton and Edwards. How to measure?

“I’m just looking to see who I trust the most to do what they say,” she said.

The debate didn’t help. She said she liked it that Clinton spoke about the real estate market and foreclosures, but was now leaning a bit toward Edwards but, well, remained undecided. She still had three days to sort it out.

Lara Garrabraut, 39, said she was “very much” an undecided voter before the debate.

She and her husband own a small business they run out of their house. And she was listening for plans to make health care more affordable and accessible.

She, like others, knew and liked each of the candidate’s positions on health care reform. In many ways, it now came down to her gut reaction.

“They all sounded good,” she said before concluding she was most impressed with Edwards.

In particular, she liked his emphasis on physical and mental health care for veterans. “We need that for everyone,” she said.

By debate’s end, the viewers shrugged. It was a tame debate, the said no fireworks, no clear winner.

Similar sentiments were shared at a high school in North Las Vegas, where younger voters were hoping that something from the night’s debate would give them reason to vote with confidence for a particular candidate.

Brian Benedict, 22, who recently graduated from UNR, began the night eager to hear more about candidates’ policies. “Largely, it was disappointing,” he said.

Although the talk about Yucca Mountain and energy policy was informative, he said he felt the presidential hopefuls and their media hosts devoted too much time to mulling over recent spats between contenders.

Still, Benedict, who was undecided before the debate, said he was leaning toward Illinois Sen. Barack Obama by the end. “He tried to get substantive issues on the table ... I was the least disappointed with him.”

The loudest applause at the watching party at Canyon Springs High School was triggered as the candidates spoke of the cost of attending college.

Tayla Afaga, a 17-year-old, said she felt Clinton, Edwards and Obama successfully focused on the issues. Moreover, she was impressed by the candidates’ emphasis on keeping Democrats united.

“I guess what struck me most about the debate was, I think we’ve narrowed it down to three very good Democratic nominees,” she said.

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