The four top candidates on the presidential ballot this year have never had a chance to formally debate each other on one stage, but on Wednesday night, Ohio University students supporting those candidates got the chance to throw barbs at each other.
The Presidential Forum in Clippinger Hall, hosted by the New Political, included the College Democrats in support of Hillary Clinton, College Republicans in support of Donald Trump, Students for Liberty in support of Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and the International Socialist Organization in support of Green Party candidate Jill Stein.
Each party had two representatives and was asked questions about the economy, foreign policy and the opioid epidemic. The parties became more critical as the debate went on.
"We've seen tonight politics is an ugly thing. It pits people against each other," Sam Raptis, the vice president of Students for Liberty, said at the end of the debate.
The Democrats and Republicans each talked up their candidates, while the Socialists and Libertarians spent more time detailing the values of their respective parties.
"What I hope to accomplish this evening is not to persuade you to embrace Libertarian philosophy, or even to vote for Governor Johnson," Brenden Kost, president of Students for Liberty, said. "We're not just pot-smoking Republicans ... we're consistent with our principles of non-aggression, of limited government."
On the economy, Democrats praised the country's slow and steady economic growth. The Libertarians said low unemployment did not necessarily mean a strong economy. Members of the International Socialist Organization said the current system did not support workers, and the Republicans blamed Obamacare for slow job creation.
"Even if you get your free college, there won't be a job when you graduate," David Parkhill, president of the College Republicans, said.
The audience was very involved, snapping for points they supported, laughing at the ones they didn't and shouting at the speakers toward the end.
College Democrat Zach Reizes drew laughter when he said of Clinton's foreign policy position: "It's complicated." Clinton drew criticism in this policy area from every party but the Democrats.
"Why does war happen in the first place? Surprise, surprise, the answer is capitalism," Ryan Powers of the International Socialist Organization said to laughter from the audience.
The groups were mostly in agreement over how to handle the drug crisis: less incarceration, more rehabilitation. The Democrats said some of the blame was on doctors.
"Opioids are such a problem because of an overprescription of pain medications," College Democrats President Sam Miller said.
Things became more contentious at the end of the debate. As Parkhill asked how Clinton's corruption would play out in the White House, a member of the audience yelled "How will rape play out in the White House?" It took a few moments to get the audience under control.
"Thank you guys for coming out, and you probably won't vote for Trump," Parkhill finished.