Obama-Romney still too close to call
Prior to the start of the debate, there was a sense of urgency among students who are supporters of President Barack Obama. They desperately wanted him to have a strong performance to disprove what they perceived to be lies by the Romney campaign about his intentions for the middle class if he were to be re-elected.
Governor Romney's supporters simply wanted him to have another strong performance to continue the momentum he gained from the first debate. The issues for which many students were seeking clarification from both candidates included: who could work best with members of Congress to get things done in Washington; who would be more clear in their explanation of their plan for the future and, most important, who could reassure them that after college, they would end up getting a well-paying job.
As students and participants settled into their seats, the representative from the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) reminded everyone, including the moderator, to turn off all cellphones. Everyone was asked not to applaud or disagree with the candidates during the debate so that the focus would remain on the candidates and not the audience.
Welcome was extended to the approximately 30 international delegates which included Gary Allen, managing director of Jamaica's RJR Group, who were guests of the CPD to not only witness the debate, but to get a first-hand view of what it takes to put on such a production. This included the rules around sponsorship and being a neutral party in ensuring that all the candidates and their parties are equally represented.
For many students, the most dramatic moment was when Obama responded to Governor Romney's claim that the administration was possibly deliberately misleading the American people in not being forthright about the events in Libya which led to the death of an American ambassador and three other American citizens. The president's commanding response in staring down his opponent when he vehemently denied that anyone in his administration would do such a thing and that he himself found the allegations "offensive", was, to them, a turning point in the debate.
The impact of these debates will be seen on November 16 when Americans go to the polls to elect their next president, but it was clear that Obama and Romney supporters felt that their candidate of choice handled themselves well. Many undecided voters were still left feeling that they did not get answers to the questions that could sway their decision one way or the other.
The lack of detail by both candidates about their plan for the future is still making the decision difficult. For some, Romney appeared to outdo the president in terms of his economic record in his home state of Massa-chusetts, while Obama was the clear winner when referencing foreign policy. Many students preferred the format of the vice-presidential debate, but also noted that they were happy that they witnessed a more spirited debate between both candidates.
Novia Ramsay, associate director, Office of Residential Programs, Hofstra University, 244 Student Center, Hempstead, NY 11549; (516) 463-6928.