Candidates square off in first debate
Published: Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 9, 2012 17:10
Last Wednesday, Presidential Candidates Mitt Romney and Barack Obama met in Denver, Colorado for a mile-high war of words. The first Presidential debate, narrated by PBS' Jim Lehrer, focused entirely on domestic issues such as taxation plans and healthcare.
The debate format consisted of six different topics, with each topic allotted 15 minutes for discussion. This was the first time the Presidential debates have used this format.
Leading up to the debates, media hype reached a crescendo. Political pundits across the board claimed that whoever won this debate would win the undecided voters.
The media claimed that Romney had been preparing for months on end, going so far as to have a list of pre-prepared, one-line "zingers" to throw in the mix.
Romney had reason to be thoroughly prepared, as Obama is widely considered one of the best political orators in modern history.
The debate began with three questions concerning the economy, focusing mainly on the creation of jobs and taxes. The topics then moved on to healthcare, Social Security and the role of the federal government.
Throughout the debate, Romney held a commanding presence. His answers were clear and concise, often being broken down into numbered categories. He maintained strong eye-contact with the audience and the moderator and appeared to be at ease recalling statistics and data.
Obama, on the other hand, looked nothing like the brilliant orator he is known to be. His answers often appealed more to the audience’s emotions rather than hard facts.
Towards the end of the debate, he maintained less and less eye contact with either the audience or moderator, choosing instead to look down at his notes.
With the conclusion of the debate, nearly 70 percent of Americans feel that Romney was the clear victor. Parkland Debate Coach Brian Cafarelli stated, "This was one of the most landslide victories in recent history."
"I feel that with Presidential debates, it is more of a perception win, a visual and audible beauty contest," explained Cafarelli. "Mitt Romney was very official and very structured while the President was more of a lay person and attempted to appeal more to the general audience."
Jason Gordon, sophomore member of the debate team, proclaimed, "I will be honest with you, it looked like Obama did not know what he was doing."
The results of the debate have left the Obama campaign scrambling into disaster control mode, clearly demonstrating the importance that debates still hold in the political arena.
"Debates like this are one of the only sources of ‘slap you in the face’ politics in our society," explained Cafarelli. "When you read a tweet, you do not get context. For scope, it is very important that we have these dialogues. Especially for young and undecided voters, because this is where you get the most information."
Not all younger viewers interpret the debates as the ideal platform for forming political opinions.
Freshman Scott Blank elaborated, "The younger generation does not know as much about the issues that are discussed in the debates. I feel they listen more to what their peers around them have to say about the candidates."
Since the debate, many issues have been raised concerning the format and handling of the debate. The moderator, Jim Lehrer, often had a tough time reigning in the candidates and getting them to stay within the allotted time.
"I would say Lehrer did a good job in forcing the candidates to stay on topic at some points," Gordon explained. "However, he was really bad at saying no. He would also take a full minute to explain to the candidates that they had three minutes left, which was annoying."
Overall, the first Presidential Debate outlined the important issues in our society that the President is tasked with solving. "The debates have set an agenda and a challenge to the candidates to address those issues," Cafarelli stated.
Furthermore, the debates have also given the American public an appreciation for the art of public speaking.
"I think the difference in performance between the two candidates allowed the average person to see the art of debating and what a good debater looks like," Gordon stated. "Due to the polarization in performance, the public walked away with a good understanding of how difficult debating is and how public speaking is an important characteristic to have in a President."
Students wishing to explore the art of debate further should visit Coach Brian Caferelli's office in room C-129 or email him at email@example.com.
The next Presidential debate will be held on October 16 in Danville, Kentucky and can be viewed on any major news channel starting at 9 p.m.