Penn State students across the political spectrum gathered together last night to cheer on their favored presidential candidate as Barack Obama and Mitt Romney faced off in the first debate leading up to the general election.
The debate at the University of Denver focused on domestic issues, including the economy, healthcare and the role of government. Jim Lehrer, executive editor of PBS NewsHour, moderated the hour-and-a-half long debate.
Gathered amongst a moderate spread of Chick-Fil-A, a group of students from the Penn State College Republicans anxiously awaited the beginning of the first of three presidential debates
Before the debate began, many of the members were discussing their expectations for Romney. Many of them voiced opinions that this would be the former Massachusetts governors’ make or break moment.
Jake Park (freshman - petroleum engineering) said he expected Romney to perform very well. To do so, Romney would need to emphasize the economy, Park said.
As the debate began, much of the room that was at first engaged in a lively discussion grew quiet in anticipation.
Throughout much of the debate, the crowd of around twenty students was glued to the television. Laughs and cheers sprung up occasionally as Romney jabbed at the president with many different statistics on the state of the economy.
An hour and a half later claps and cheers rose from the crowd who largely felt that Romney had won the night.
Patrick Griffin (sophomore - biology) said he thought that Romney had held the upper hand throughout much of the debate.
“Romney clearly won,” he said. “He knew his facts, he knew his numbers and he was overall a more powerful speaker than Obama.”
Not all of the students in attendance thought Romney’s observed domination was a sole product of how he handled himself.
Maggie Quinn, vice chair of the PSU College Republicans thought a main reason Romney shined was because the president was unusually superfluous in his responses.
“Honestly I was surprised that Obama didn’t come off as strong as I anticipated,” said Quinn (senior - public relations). “He seemed to be more on the defensive.”
John Wortman (freshman - secondary education) feels that overall Romney succeeded in doing what he needed to do.
“I think he gave the American people a chance to see how his policies match up against Obama’s,” Wortman said.
Penn State Students for Barack Obama and Penn State College Democrats tuned into the debate from a classroom of the Willard Building. About 40 people attended the watch party, and the room eventually ran out of chairs.
Penn State SFBO President Taylor Garland said Obama’s mention of his accomplishments with Pell grants and student loan rates spoke directly to students.
“That’s something that affects every student at this university, and something that will continue to affect them after the November election,” Garland (senior-political science and public relations) said.
She said President Obama was able to clearly state what he would do if elected to a second term and what he has done for the American people in the last four years.
Chris Malone, associate professor and chair of the political science department at Pace University in New York, wasn’t as convinced. He said Obama missed an opportunity to paint Romney as a flip-flopper or conservative Republican. Romney did what it took to make undecided voters pause, Malone said.
Malone said he expects Obama to be more aggressive in the next debate.