The debate continues on campus
Wednesday’s presidential debate may be over, but campus is still buzzing
Published: Thursday, October 4, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
Students charged with political excitement filed into the Union Wednesday night, gearing up to watch President Barak Obama and Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney duke it out in the first presidential debate of the 2012 election.
With provided popcorn in hand and laptops open, students live tweeted and followed fact checking online as Obama and Romney debated numerous polices, the economy, healthcare and tax plans. The consensus around campus and most of the country is that Romney won the debate, and Obama didn’t deliver what most Americans expected.
Distinguished Political Science Professor James Campbell disagrees with a lot of what’s floating around in the media.
“I think that [what has been in the media] has been a little harsh on President Obama and I think it overdrew the differences in the performance,” Campbell said. “Governor Romney clearly won the debate but I don’t think it was as big as a disaster for President Obama that some are suggesting.”
Campbell feels both candidates were effective during the debate, but he said most commentary around the debate is describing Obama as passive.
John Land, a second-year law student and Democrat, thinks Obama wasn’t aggressive enough. While Campbell described Obama as being “largely on the defensive,” Land feels Obama wasn’t. Land said that because Obama is the sitting president, he didn’t have to exert a defense – but it was up to Romney to land effective attacks.
But how successful Romney was in his attacks is “open for debate,” according to Land.
“I believe everyone left and right were surprised last night,” said Christian Andzel, a junior history and political science major, vice president of UB Conservatives and member of the College Republicans.“Both sides were surprised because we never knew Romney had that fire under him.”
Andzel described Obama as “up-tight” and “looking flatter than a conservative’s ‘flat tax’ policy.”
Land thinks Obama’s decision to be passive was a conscious choice, given the president’s level of experience.
Campbell feels the president did a “reasonably good job” defending himself, especially in the face of America’s current economic situation.
“The economy has not improved to the point of where [Americans] thought it should be,” Campbell said. “I think that makes his job very difficult. He has to convince people that he deserves more time to do a job four years ago he thought would have done by now. That’s a tough position to be in.”
Campbell feels Romney was quite effective in challenging Obama’s record.
Land thinks Romney won the debate because of his stylistic flair most people weren’t expecting because of Romney’s background and history.
“Unfortunately behind the style was absolutely zero credible facts or substance,” Land said.
Campbell feels both candidates threw around a lot of numbers that are difficult to verify.
“That makes it difficult for voters to judge whose numbers they should believe,” Campbell explained. “It makes it somewhat ambiguous and more complicated.”
Campbell pointed out it’s also difficult for voters to trust fact checkers, and he thinks the candidates should focus more on the underlying principles of what the candidates believe in.
Brendan Dunn, vice president of the College Democrats, thought moderator Jim Lehrer was “largely ineffective.”
“You need to have a moderator who will rein in two people, one of which is the leader of the free world,” Dunn said. “Jim Lehrer did not live up to the task.”
According to Campbell, Lehrer “in general did a good job.”
“I think it shouldn’t be about the moderator; it should be about the candidates,” Campbell said. “For the most part he removed himself; he tried to keep them on topic and roughly equal in time, though I understand that President Obama [went] somewhat longer than Governor Romney.”
Campbell ultimately feels the debate provided an opportunity for voters to see the candidates unadulterated without the filter of the media.
Additional reporting by Sports Editor Joe Konze