ST. LOUIS – Tom Hildebrand brought 50 signs supporting Donald Trump and Mike Pence to Washington University ahead of the second presidential debate on Sunday. Within a couple of hours, those signs were gone.

Most of the Wash U students in attendance were holding Hillary Clinton “stronger together” signs outside the Danforth University Center. But Hildebrand, a Wash U graduate student from Alton, Illinois, said most of Trump’s supporters on college campuses are “quiet supporters.” He says he thinks Trump supporters took the signs, but didn’t want to be seen in public with them.

“They stay quiet due to a media spin,” Hildebrand said. “I can’t turn on Saturday Night Live without seeing a joke. I can’t go to Reddit without seeing a joke about Trump at the top of the page. It’s about a negative stigma affiliated with his supporters.”

During the week leading up to the debate, Wash U College Republicans announced they would not be supporting Donald Trump in the election. Zach Persing, a sophomore from Livingston, New Jersey, and the policy coordinator for the organization, said the group had numerous disagreements with Trump and could not come to endorse the Republican nominee.

“We don’t think he represents mainstream conservatism regardless of whether you’re on the more conservative end of that spectrum or if you’re on the more moderate,” Persing said. “That being said, we would have been able to overcome many policy differences if we thought he was a good, decent, honorable man who was capable of serving as president of the United States. But his actions over the course of the last year have led us to conclude otherwise.”

Hildebrand said he spoke with College Republicans the night Trump secured the nomination last summer, but the campus organization decided instead to “be establishment.”

“That is a very poor decision in this political climate, Hildebrand said. “Being an establishment member is not something you want to hold yourself to when the anti-establishment Bernie Sanders got so many young people to support him.”

Young voters on college campuses should vote for Trump, Hildebrand added, because he is the “only candidate who has talked about rebuilding American infrastructure.”

“We’ve all grown up in the age of the Iraq War. We’ve all grown up in the age of seeing the U.S. Army building things like water treatment plants and helping shore up dams in Iraq and Afghanistan while our own infrastructure falls apart. Ultimately to guarantee a better life for American citizens we are going to need to start rebuilding our infrastructure.”

Zach Persing said college Republicans put an emphasis on national security, but Trump does not have any clear policy on how to improve the safety of Americans.

“We’re going to be watching the debate with profound sadness because unless something shocking happens, neither candidate is going to articulate a conservative view for America and that’s very disappointing to us,” Persing said.

(Video by Andrew Merica/MNS)

Published in conjunction with USA Today Logo