UC Berkeley student Santos Vazquez attends vice presidential debate

Santos Vazquez/Courtesy

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Several months ago, Virginia’s Sen. Tim Kaine was not a household name. Nevertheless, prior to the official announcement of the Democratic nominees at the end of June, UC Berkeley senior Santos Vazquez managed to correctly guess Hillary Clinton’s running mate, earning him a ticket to the vice presidential debate at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia, on Tuesday night.

As an incoming fall UCDC program student, Vazquez participated in an online contest through the program, which asked students to guess the vice presidential nominees in order to win a ticket to the first and only vice presidential debate in October.

C-SPAN Senior Executive Producer and UCDC professor Steve Scully offered the Washington, D.C.,-based program a total of eight debate tickets for students who could correctly guess the vice president nominees. Two UC students were able to predict both the Democratic and Republican vice president picks, while 12 others accurately determined one or the other — out of the 12, six other students were randomly selected to attend the debate.

“Trump was definitely the more difficult one, that’s the one I got wrong,” Vazquez said. “For Hillary, I read a lot about her, and I knew she was polling well with minorities and women but wasn’t polling very well with old white men.”

Leading up to his semester in Washington, D.C., Vazquez spent the summer interning for EMC Research, an Oakland-based research consulting firm that specializes in polling. While Vazquez gained a greater understanding of local and national polling practices during his time at EMC Research, he said he didn’t use that experience to ultimately choose Kaine.

“He has a friendly face and is from a swing state,” Vazquez said. “I wasn’t sure it would be him — it was evenly divided between a lot of old white men.”

Vazquez hoped the debate would focus less on the candidates themselves, as he feels the first presidential debate unfortunately veered toward.

Conceding that this debate would likely be more boring for the general public than the highly personal presidential debate, he hoped he would witness a substantive discussion of policy issues.

Vazquez personally identifies as a Democrat and said Kaine did “a good job” representing Hillary, but he was openly critical of Kaine’s performance.

“Kaine was a little pedantic — not good for demonstrating how he would reach out across the aisle,” Vazquez said.

In critiquing Pence, Vazquez noted the candidate failed to defend Trump’s statements. Vazquez also described a biased atmosphere among the audience members in favor of Pence — when Trump’s running partner would speak, the crowd would often break the rules and clap or cheer.

After the debate, despite his first-hand attendance, Vazquez was reluctant to declare a substantive winner.

“I’m a little cynical; I don’t trust either side of the media,” Vazquez said. “They’re both going to win to their respective sides, continuing to polarize themselves and the country.”

Contact Audrey McNamara at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @McNamaraAud.