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Students, faculty react to debate

Angela Saoud | Wednesday, October 6, 2004

As households around America tuned in to watch Vice President Dick Cheney and Senator John Edwards debate topics of the presidency Tuesday night, many members of the Notre Dame community said after watching the debate that they were not swayed one direction or another.

Assistant professor of political science David Campbell said while Cheney may be remembered more for what he said in this debate, both candidates made strong arguments.

“Cheney may have the advantage that he said a couple of things that will likely be repeated,” he said. “However, those same comments, because they were negative, could also work against him. I don’t think there were any gaffes made by either candidate. Both of them had a message they got across.”

Despite the fact that Campbell felt both competitors did well, he said this debate differed greatly from Thursday’s presidential debate.”This was a much more negative exchange,” Campbell said. “They were more willing to criticize each other than the presidential candidates were.”

But for some Notre Dame students, the winner was cut and dry. Freshman Chris Lund said he believed Cheney acted more presidential than Edwards.

“I think Cheney was a lot more forceful on his Iraq points, especially with the involvement of Iraq,” Lund said. “Cheney had an advantage in foreign policy and health care, but Edwards had a lot of credibility with unemployment and job loss.”

For others, the winner of the debate was still cloudy.

Junior Phillip Wells said he thought Edwards had an emotional advantage while Cheney had a factual advantage.

“[Who people see as the winner] all depends on whether to the American people, emotions or factual analysis will connect better with them,” Wells said. “To be honest, I didn’t see a clear winner.”

Tuesday’s debate was the only debate scheduled to take place between the two vice presidential nominees. The next presidential debate will take place on Friday.

Wells said he believes each candidate brings something different to the table, but as to who would be better as a vice president, he’s not saying – yet.

“I think that it’s important that Dick Cheney had a real soft tone conveying his messages,” Wells said. “Even his attacks on Edwards were in that soft tone. He really played the elder statesman role. Edwards played the idea of a champion of the people. [He’s a person] who had a lot of wisdom, without having been skewed by politics.”

And while for many, the vice presidential debate is not as important as the presidential debates, Campbell said it is far from an exchange that should not be ignored.

“There have been a lot of cases where vice presidents had to assume the presidency,” he said.

Paul Spadafora contributed to this article.