The Sunday night town hall debate in St. Louis, Missouri couldn't have come at a more precarious time for Donald Trump's presidential campaign.
Eleven years ago, an open microphone captured an instance of sexually aggressive banter that has come back to haunt the Republican nominee. The release of that video late Friday has shaken the Republican Party to its core and loomed over Donald Trump well into Sunday evening.
In an attempt to change the national conversation, the Trump camp set up a roundtable with women who have accused former President Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct ahead of the debate. The Washington Post reports the Trump campaign later lobbied to seat the accusers in the VIP box for Sunday night's debate itself, but organizers denied the request.
Among the millions watching the debate at home, two young women, each with a penchant for the political process: Republican Mary Perez, the vice president of the University of Southern California's GOP, and Kelsey Brewer, a Democrat, and recent Cal State Fullerton political science graduate. Though Brewer and Perez might differ in their visions for the future of the nation, there are three beliefs the two seem to hold close to their hearts: life, liberty and their dissatisfaction with the Republican nominee.
The young voters spoke Monday with Take Two's A Martinez. Below are excerpts from their conversation.
Mary, you are a Republican, but you've never been comfortable with Donald Trump as a candidate. Given the events of the past few days, did anything he said last night make you feel better about him?
No, honestly, coming into this debate I had very low expectations for Mr. Trump, and I think last night it was basically him just trying to salvage and trying to put any sort of remedy on the hemorrhage that he caused himself.
The debate was very volatile. I think that maybe he did a good job of -- kind of -- getting his base to go out and vote and capitalizing on trying to bring out these scandals with President Clinton. He really attracted his base, but he didn't really galvanize declined-to-states or any other voters.
Kelsey, what was your reaction when you saw the Trump tape with Billy Bush that came out on Friday?
I think like everybody else at first, I wanted to be surprised by it, but upon further reflection, the man has said xenophobic, Islamophobic, racist things this whole campaign.
What concerned me the most, and was so incredibly frustrating for me, was for a presidential candidate to stand up on live television, and to imply that, because this is locker room banter, that this isn't a real issue, that this isn't a serious issue that we should care about -- it's is absolutely disgusting to me.
The fact of the matter is, in this country, one in five college campuses, one in six women nationally, have experienced exactly what Donald Trump was describing. For him to imply that it is not something that we should use to judge his character and his fitness to hold the highest office in this nation is one of the most un-American things that I have heard this entire election.
My mind has been made up for a while, but I really hope that people will take to heart the words this man has said and the defense of those words.
Press the blue play button to hear the conversation in its entirety.
(Answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.)