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Debaters weigh in on candidate performance

Kristin Dold | Thursday, October 16, 2008

After Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama faced off in their third and final debate, the Notre Dame Debate Team had its own debate – about the Republican and Democratic candidates’ performances.

Students assembled in the Coleman-Morse lounge Wednesday night to watch debate and listen to analysis by the Notre Dame Debate Team.

Members of the debate team had a mixed reaction to the candidates’ performances, though they all agreed that the debate had not altered the course of the campaign.

“Because he is behind, McCain had to come in tonight with a knockout punch, and he didn’t,” Debate Team president Henry Chan said.

Dr. Susan Ohmer, a Film, Television and Theatre professor, moderated the debate team.

“McCain did a better job than he has in the past two debates,” she said. “However, Obama appeared cool and level-headed compared to some of McCain’s snarky tactics.”

Tom Foote, a member of the debate team, referenced Joe the Plumber, a man, perhaps real, perhaps symbolic, whose name was repeatedly mentioned by both candidates.

“I don’t know if Joe the Plumber exists, but if he does, Obama did a good job articulating how his policies will affect him,” Foote said.

Junior Elyse Hoffman explained why McCain would try to show Americans how eloquent Obama is as a speaker in order to make them rethink his words. 

“A big part of this is speaking pretty; however, the majority of Americans don’t realize that,” she said.

The final debate, held at at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y,, was moderated by CBS’s Bob Schieffer.  The table discussion format allowed the candidates to engage each other directly on a mixed bag of issues including the economy, attacks ads, their running mates, energy, abortion and education.

Both candidates strove to present the image of a strong leader when Schieffer asked them why their economic plan was superior to their opponents. Obama was left defending his tax policies to McCain who told viewers, “I know how to save billions.”

Obama criticized McCain for repeatedly siding with President Bush.

McCain responded: “Sen. Obama, I am not President Bush. If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago. I’m going to give a new direction to this economy in this country.”

Schieffer gave the candidates an opportunity to reflect on the presence of attack ads in the campaign. Obama accused McCain for running “100 percent negative ads” and dismissed the McCain campaign for claiming he “pals around with terrorists.” McCain used the opportunity to point out that Obama agreed to town hall meetings months ago and later opted out.

The candidates were asked why their pick of a running mate was better than their opponents. Obama passed on criticizing Palin and said, “heaven forbid something happen to me, Biden would make a great president.” McCain, who listed Palin’s accomplishments extensively, failed to address the possibility of her becoming president and ended with “her husband Todd is a pretty tough guy.”