Presidential debate prompts political interest on campus

Miranda Malo

Miranda Malo

While many students were feverishly flipping through the local channels, trying to get away from the presidential debate, some were watching it.

President George W. Bush and his opponent in the presidential race, Senator John Kerry, sparred about foreign policy for 90 minutes in the first debate between the two on Sept. 30 at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla.

“I’m interested in the race. It’s pretty close,” said Mitchell Rohloff, freshman general agriculture major watching the debate.

David Werner chose to go bowling instead of tuning in.

“I know who I’m voting for. I don’t need to know anything else,” said the sophomore mechanical engineering student.

Many who gathered in the residence hall lobbies to watch the dueling duo had already decided on their choice for president.

“I’m an anybody-but-Bush guy,” said Trent Gorham, a sophomore general studies major. “I’m finally hearing some specifics from Kerry; I’m hearing some new things.”

Gorham had planned to watch the debate to learn “what their policies are.”

The main focus of the evening’s discussion was the war in Iraq.

“It comes down to if you believe in freedom or not. (Kerry) says he has a plan, but he’s never said what his plan is. He said before he’d fight a sympathetic war on terrorism. How is that possible?” said Rohloff. “There’s a price to pay right now, but they’re doing it for generations to come.”

Rohloff’s choice for president is clear, but not all students are won over by a candidate yet.

Karmen Gregory, freshman economics and Spanish double major, said she watched the debate in hopes that it would help her decide.

“It’s interesting,” she said, noting that after watching she was still indecisive. “They’re politics-they’re going to be back and forth.”

The debate even sparked the interest of some students who can’t vote.

“I think it’s very important because the war in Iraq has affected people all over the world,” said Daniel Gai, junior manufacturing engineering major from Sudan. “It’s real good that they talk about homeland security. It is one of the biggest issues in the presidential race.”

He and his friends, Manyang Gak, Bol Chol, and Abraham Atem, all left Sudan because of conflict within the country.

“Bush is the right president for this time. Fighting terrorists (overseas) is better than fighting terrorists in this country. What happened in Sudan was related to terrorists,” said Gak, a sophomore agriculture economics major.

Analysis of the debate varied widely among the students.

“I think George Bush pretty much has one point that he’s made over and over again. His point is that John Kerry sends a mixed message,” said Mike Birnstiehl, a sophomore English major.

“Kerry is winning the debate,” said Chol, a freshman general studies major. “Bush is defending because he is the president. Kerry is bringing a lot of things to Bush.”

“Bush has an edge because he knows what he’s talking about,” said Alex Nelson, a freshman agriculture and engineering major.

But, of course, the final results won’t be in until Election Day on Nov. 2.

#1.885895:2857911324.jpg:debate.jpg:Sophomores Kristy Smith and Evan Davis watch the presidential debate in the Pierson Hall lobby.:Mike Carlson