Final debate swaying few voters in area parodied by SNL

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Sitting barside at the no-frills McGlone’s Stanley Kup Inn, Diane DiDonato recounted that her phone was blowing up with texts a week and a half ago when “Saturday Night Life” played a sketch portraying two female voters from Clifton Heights. DiDonato lives just up the road from this bar in the real-life community where the characters played by Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon supposedly live.

“Yo, put on Saturday Night, man,” a friend of hers texted to DiDonato, a head cook at a retirement home. “They’re putting a skit on, I’m like, wow.”

DiDonato said though the jokes about hoagies and Mummers are more of a South Philly thing, it was still cool to see her borough of 6,652 residents get a shout out on national television. 

“They’re putting Clifton Heights up here? And we’re like a little freaking borough. I’m loving it! It was all over town,” she said. “Tina Fey rocks! So I thought it was great.”

Yet her excitement is far softer when asked who she is leaning toward for president. A lifelong Republican, DiDonato said after watching portions of Wednesday night’s debate, she’s still not in Donald Trump’s camp, and she can’t stand Hillary Clinton. So what’s she going to do in November?

“I don’t really know. I feel like going in the box and like closing my eyes and going, ‘eeny meeny miny moe.’ That’s how I feel. I do,” she said.

Voters in Philadelphia’s suburbs often play a decisive role in presidential elections, and many analysts say that is true again this year, though stops at half a dozen bars along Baltimore Pike in Delaware County on Wednesday night revealed that many patrons weren’t interested in the debate at all. Instead, most watched the Dodgers’ National League series against the Cubs on mute over beers and said: Why watch the debate when they’ve already made up their mind?

To be sure, people watching sports at sports bars is hardly astonishing. That the old maxim that religion and politics have no place at the side of a bar was dutifully observed at most of the watering holes, but not at a spot called Illusions in Clifton Heights. 

There, a small but engaged audience took in the presidential matchup on four large screens.

As Conroy Stevens watched, he said Hillary Clinton’s political experience really came through to him.

“He, on the other hand, is still slinging mud,” Stevens said of Trump. “And that’s his whole concept of this debate. Period. He’s dodging the issues. He’s not prepared for this. He’s really not prepared for this.”

Merlene Harper of Montgomery County shook her head in agreement. 

She was apprehensive about Hillary Clinton in the beginning of the presidential race, although as both campaigns wore on, her opposition to Donald Trump turned her into a Clinton advocate.

“I mean, he says he’s a businessman. OK, fine, I give him that. I don’t have no problem with that. I give him all of that,” Harper said. “But strongly, I don’t think, he’s not ready to run this country.”

Mark Valinote from Upper Darby, began watching as an undecided voter. And that did not change. He was disappointed the moderator could not pin down Trump’s positions on several things, including whether he would honor the results of the election.

“I think Donald Trump has avoided saying what he actually is going to do. I think it’s kind of petty what they bring up and fight with each other. I think these people should be held to a higher standard,” he said.

Back at McGlone’s, the 2005 video of Trump bragging about groping women came up with Bob Feifer, who lives in Springfield Township.

He said the condemnation Trump has received for those comments has been overblown.

“In the locker-room, I’ve said a lot worse than he did, and we’re all grown-ups now, but back in the day, I did the same thing,” Feifer said. “It’s not really who you are. It’s just like, you’re impressing your friends.”

A recent poll of Philadelphia’s suburbs showed that two-thirds of likely voters including the majority of women polled were “bothered a lot” by the footage. 

“Those comments were meant to be private,” Feifer said. “And when you say stuff like that, you always know it’s bull.” 

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