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Millennials still search for ideal candidate

Andrew Ripley braved the downpour to head over to St. Pat's Bar and Grill in Manhattan. He wasn't looking to watch the hometown Mets take on the Kansas City Royals. Ripley wanted to figure out which presidential hopeful was worthy of his vote, and he was hoping the GOP debate would provide clarity.

Despite leaning conservative and having strong views on smaller government, he went home just as undecided.

"I don't have a real sense of what the difference is between these people," the 38-year-old software start-up entrepreneur said.

Read MoreVote: Who won the Republican presidential debate?

Like Ripley, many of the young professionals who showed up to watch the CNBC-hosted debate were searching for clarity. Some said the problem with the previous two debates was that no candidate really answered questions or revealed their policies — and Wednesday night's debate didn't solve those issues.

Brian, a 22-year-old actuary who just graduated from Harvard, admitted apologetically that he was a Democrat. Still, he had come to watch the debate because he wanted to hear other viewpoints. Also, the friends he was supposed to meet at the bar bailed on him, and he was just too lazy to make the trek back to Brooklyn right away.

Brian wanted to hear the candidates talk about how they planned to tackle college debt. He left disappointed shortly before the end of the debate.

"In terms of politics, it's not been good," one 35-year-old man who asked to remain anonymous said. "In terms of entertainment, it's been great."

Most people seemed resigned to the fact that the GOP debate was nothing more than comedy hour. People clapped every time Donald Trump answered a question, and roared with laughter when he talked about being "unpredictable" as to when he carried a gun. Ted Cruz' lashing out at the moderators for pitting candidates against each other also elicited cheers, as did his comments about tequila and pot brownies.

The majority of the noisemakers were sarcastic, save one man who seemed firmly be in John Kasich's camp. Every time Kasich said something — anything — he proudly clapped his hands. Unfortunately for him, there were very few of those moments.

"This feels like we're spectators to the whole thing, not participants," said 27-year-old Mike Aperauch, a proof reader at digital agency AKQA.


Aperauch and his 32-year-old friend, documentary filmmaker Guy Reid, have decided that they're supporting Bernie Sanders. Still, they watched the debate because they wanted to know more about where the Republicans were coming from. Even though they knew who they were voting for, they said it didn't mean they weren't open to new ideas.

"Just because we're liberal doesn't mean we can't be critical of our government," Aperauch said.


Aperauch even found himself agreeing with some things that Trump was doing. While he strongly emphasized that he was against Trump's anti-immigration views, he did applaud the candidate's stance on campaign finance reform and the fact he spoke against the status quo.

Many of the attendees agreed that Trump at least piqued their interest to learn more about his stances. However, they hesitated to say that they were ready to pledge their support.

"Overall, he has some good ideas," one person sheepishly admitted. "I want someone who can get things done. I think the real issue is corporate power, and Trump is talking about it."


While most people went home still swing voters, Aperauch and Reid said the debate at least solidified their vote — well, at the very least, the fact that they wouldn't be voting for a Republican candidate.

"It's all style over content with no substance," Reid complained. "They seem to be obsessed with the idea that no government is the best government, and that's absurd."

"Compared to the Democratic debate where they did get into policy in a real way, this one just seemed homogenous," he added.