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Nick Wagner, Deseret News
Leilani Jacobson watches the presidential debate during a debate party hosted by the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on Monday, Sept. 26, 2016.

SALT LAKE CITY — Austin Gambling, a former intern for the Utah Republican Party, did something Monday he says was previously unthinkable.

He decided he's going to support Hillary Clinton for president.

"I didn't know what to expect from Hillary, but I hoped she wouldn't descend to (Trump's) level," Gambling said, adding that Monday's debate between Clinton and Republican Party nominee Donald Trump ultimately swayed him.

Gambling was among a handful of University of Utah students at a debate party hosted by the Hinckley Institute of Politics who admitted to changing their minds after Monday's first presidential debate.

In all, about 250 students and faculty attended the event, which included food and a showing of the gubernatorial debate between GOP Gov. Gary Herbert and Democratic challenger Mike Weinholtz.

The crowd was strongly pro-Clinton and pro-Weinholtz. Following the debate, only two or three people clapped when those gathered asked for a verbal show of who supported Trump. The group roared with applause when asked about Clinton.

A few students, though, expressed deep disappointment in both candidates.

"Trump is terrifying," said Devan Anderson, an undecided voter, but Clinton is a "representative of … everything wrong with politics in America."

Student Vanessa Rogan said she's leaning toward voting for Clinton, mostly because of her distaste for Trump.

"It's about who you want out of office rather than in office," Rogan said.

Christian Mickelsen, a political science and economics major, said he wanted to see Trump act presidential during the debate. But Trump disappointed in that regard, Mickelsen said.

"He kind of devolved back into what he was in the primaries," he said.

The performance persuaded Mickelsen not to vote for Trump, he said. However, he was one of a few students who indicated they didn't take issue with Trump not releasing his tax returns.

The most positive reaction to Trump came when he got aggressive with Clinton about her widely criticized use of a private email server. Clinton's laughter at some of Trump's arguments also drew heavy applause, as did her one-liner about the Republican nominee living in his "own reality."

Trump's talk about his temperament being better than Clinton's whipped the crowd into laughter. He also received a few jeers when he cited his properties and investments, and how they tied in to his business wherewithal.

Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute and vice president for government relations for the University of Utah, moderated a student discussion about the debate after it concluded. Perry was hesitant to declare a winner, but told the Deseret News that Trump is likely to "prepare differently for the next (debate)."

Clinton also did a good job of meeting the "high bar" typically set for the incumbent party in the first presidential debate of the fall, Perry added.

A poll conducted earlier this month for UtahPolicy.com shows likely Utah voters favor Trump over Clinton by about 15 percentage points: 39 percent to 24 percent. About 13 percent of respondents support Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, while 9 percent support Evan McMullin, a Utah native and Republican who is running as an independent as part of the "Never Trump" movement.

The same poll indicated a lack of enthusiasm for both Trump and Clinton. About two-thirds of likely Utah voters indicated they're less likely to vote for candidates in other contests who support Clinton, while 45 percent said the same about Trump.

Email: blockhart@deseretnews.com

Twitter: benlockhartnews