Voters waiting eagerly for first presidential debate

Millions of people around the country will tune in to the first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump Monday night.

"It’s interesting, it’s entertaining," said Soran Tarkhani, an international student from Iraq studying at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Tarkhani studies political science at SIU. He says he’ll be watch the debate for his major, but also because this political cycle has become so important.

"Really and truthfully, I’m going to watch it because I like to watch and see what they’re going to lie about," said Brenda Henry, who lives in Carbondale. Henry says she thinks both candidates have good qualities, but she says we likely won’t see what they’re really like until election season is over.

"It’s going to be great entertainment. You never know what either candidate is going to say and what’s going to happen," said SIU senior Josh Davis. He’s studying accounting. Davis says the race is interesting, because both the candidates are neck and neck. But, he says, it’s also pretty interesting to follow along with.

Many students at SIU say they’ll be watching the presidential debate purely for the entertainment value. But political experts here say, because the political and entertainment worlds are intertwined, you can expect a little bit of both during the first debate.

"They’re not calling it the Super Bowl of politics for nothing," said John Jackson, a visiting professor with the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute.

Clinton and Trump each want credit for winning the debate, Jackson said. But he and associate professor of political science Ken Mulligan say the playing field isn’t equal.

"They may weigh more heavily here than in recent history, because the expectations are so different. The expectations for Trump quite frankly are low," Mulligan said. He says Trump needs to keep his temper in line and merely appear presidential to do well during the debate.

"I think Clinton’s really got a tougher assignment. I think her assignment is, as the phrase goes, to humanize herself a bit more," Jackson said. He says Clinton needs to open up and get real, even talk about her grandchildren. 

"Whoever will be president, the first debate is very important," Tarkhani said. He can’t vote for either Clinton or Trump on Nov 8, but he says this election is important not only in the U.S., but all around the world. Tarkhani says in a connected world, the kind of leader the U.S. elects will impact people in a big way.

Jackson says social media is the one thing to watch after the debate ends. With Trump’s transformational use of Twitter during the election cycle, he predicts that Twitter will dominate and transform the conversation about the election in the coming days.

To watch the debate stream live starting at 8 p.m., CT, click here.

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