Politically minded students and community members turned out last night to watch the vice presidential debate between Mitt Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, and current vice president Joe Biden.
Members of both the Penn State College Democrats and Students for Barrack Obama congregated around the HUB-Robeson Center’s TV Thursday night to tune in to this debate. The Centre County Republicans also held a debate watch party at The Village at Penn State.
A special guest - Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa, - dropped by the Centre County Republican Party’s debate watch party. Thompson walked into the watch party at the clubhouse at The Village at Penn State about 20 minutes into the debate.
Thompson said he was attending an event in Huntingdon County when he looked at the clock and realized he wasn’t going to make it home in time for the debate, so he decided to watch it with the Centre County Republicans, he said.
Martha Raddatz, senior foreign affairs correspondent of ABC News, moderated the debate. She spent a good deal of the night discussing foreign policy with both of the candidates.
One of the students at the HUB, Drew McGehrin, president of the College Democrats, said he had high hopes for Biden in the debate.
“I’m looking for [Biden] to exhibit all of the successes the Obama administration has accomplished in the past four years,” McGehrin (senior-history and religious studies) said. “They have a record to run on, all he needs to do is show up and prove it.”
The atmosphere was slightly subdued to begin with, only about twenty students from both groups were in attendance, although more trickled in as the night went on.
However, the low turnout in their respective groups did not surprise students from either of the two democratic clubs, as there is rarely as much emphasis placed on vice presidential debates compared to presidential ones, McGehrin said.
Nevertheless, a solid crowd grew around the HUB TV as the night went on, as a number of passersby stopped to watch the debate.
Matt Beiluti (freshman–mechanical engineering) was one of the students who stopped to watch.
Beiluti said that while he has not yet decided on who he is going to vote for in November, he is interested in the debate because of the issues that affect him and his country.
“Student loan rates are definitely important for me personally,” Beiluti said. “and I also believe we need to pull our troops out of the Middle East…so whatever the candidates say about that interests me.”
Students for Barrack Obama President Taylor Garland (senior-public relations and political science) said she was proud of the current vice president’s performance.
“He was alive and spoke with conviction,” Garland said. “He believed in what he was talking about and he really got across both the president’s and his ambitions.”
Paul Ryan looked like a vice president, and he communicated a vision for the Romney-Ryan campaign, Thompson said at the Republican watch party.
The discussion on withdrawing the troop surge in Afghanistan hit close to home for Thompson, whose daughter-in-law is stationed there with the Army, Thompson said. He said his son is shipping off to Afghanistan soon, too.
It’s a scary situation from a dad’s perspective, and should be a scary situation for the country as well, Thompson said.
“We shouldn’t leave any of our troops vulnerable,” Thompson said. “There’s a right way and a wrong way to do this. This administration is doing it the wrong way.”
About 16 people at the watch party debriefed with Thompson after the debate ended, questioning him about his take on the mob attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. Some have questioned whether the administration provided the consulate with adequate security.
As more and more evidence emerges, the truth will come out, Thompson said.
Kelley Sherlock, of State College, said Biden looked arrogant and had a sort of mocking tone, while Ryan looked more professional and at ease. She said Ryan hit in home in his closing statement, when he juxtaposed the two choices voters have before them.
“Biden had his talking points and his rhetoric ready, but it wasn’t a match for Paul Ryan’s knowledge of the facts and common sense solutions,” Sherlock said.