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Debate captivates nation

John Cameron | Thursday, October 4, 2012

The final stretch of the presidential race kicked off last night as President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney faced off on employment, the economy and healthcare in the first of three 2012 presidential debates.

Students tuning into the debates had mixed feelings about how convincing the candidates’ plans were on the controversial topics.
Senior Betty Graham said the issue of education hit home for her as a college student.

“Romney was quoted as saying college students should ask our parents for a loan, but that’s not an option for a lot of students, even from high-income families,” she said. “For me that was a big deal. … Romney didn’t really respond to it in a great way.”

Graham found merit in both candidates’ philosophies toward education for younger students.

“I think a lot of the responsibility lies at the state and local level, but I think in terms of what Obama talked about, with education being the future of America – they can’t just leave that up to towns and states,” she said. “Mississippi needs help, they can’t get it done on their own.,”
she said.

Senior Tom Swanson was not affected by either candidate’s statements on education.

“No candidate is ever going to say he’s against education,” Swanson said. “They both end up saying the same politically-correct platitudes. I would call it a draw.”

As much of the debate focused on the role of small businesses, Graham said she felt the distinction between “small” and “large” businesses was unclear.

“I wish one of them would have taken the time to say what in their eyes is a big or small business,” she said. “When Obama brought up the fact that under some definitions Donald Trump is a small business, it gets tricky. … I thought small business was the ‘mom and pop’ hardware store.”

Senior Patty Walsh was not wholly convinced by Romney’s claim he would not reduce taxes on large corporations as president.

“He’s definitely easy to criticize as flip-flopping on issues,” she said. “The temptation is to say he won’t stick behind that, and that he’ll be tempted by his background to be lenient toward big business. But I don’t think, given the economy we’re in, he has the room to let his preferences decide.”

As Obama frequently alluded to Romney’s alleged plan to cut taxes by $5 trillion, Graham was unconvinced by Romney’s explanation the cuts would be made up for by eliminating exemptions and loopholes.

“When Obama said the math doesn’t add up … I’m cautious about that,” she said. “I know neither of the candidates want to say they’re not going to not cut taxes – we all want to hear they’ll cut them or not raise them.”

Swanson said third-party research exists to support both sides of Romney’s claim.

“I’ve read findings that would vindicate both sides,” he said. “I think [Obama’s refutation] will resonate with people’s common sense, true or not. I think voters are going to have to do their homework and educate themselves going into the other debates.”

As the survival of the Affordable Care Act hinges on the outcome of the election, the candidates debated whether a $716 billion cut in payments to healthcare providers serving Medicare recipients was a result of streamlining inefficiencies or reducing quality of care.

“I agree with Romney on this one,” Graham said. “I think it’s going to hurt the patients in the long run. [Quality of care] does affect me. Sure, I can stay on my parents’ insurance until I’m 26, but what does that do if the care is mediocre?”

Graham found little comfort in Obama’s reassurance he can maintain Medicare successfully.

“Cutting off the elderly is a big deal,” she said. “Romney backed Obama up in a corner there. Obama did not do a good job of explaining how it won’t collapse.”

Following Romney’s pledge to replace Dodd-Frank, a package of regulations on financial institutions, Walsh said it was unclear as to what the presidential hopeful would replace it with, or whether it should have been focused on at all.

“First of all, the fact they were talking about it in such a specific way was frustrating,” she said. “Even as an educated student in the business college, I can’t speak to that issue. He gave no information [on his proposed replacement regulation].”

Swanson said the limited time available was not constructive for a detailed explanation of Romney’s proposed regulations.

“I don’t think he was too vague,” he said. “I don’t think he could do much more on that score … and I don’t think Obama defended Dodd-Frank well.”

Walsh said the debate did not affect her voting decision, although it may have highlighted some of her favored candidate’s weaknesses.

“I think across the board, a lot of people are already locked into their beliefs,” she said. “You go in rooting for your candidate and based on their performance, my support might be affected. I think it’s more of a call-to-arms situation.”

For Graham, the debate inspired her to seek more information.

“After watching this, it definitely shook my thinking a bit,” she said. “I’ve got to do some research. People who are less firm in their decision could be swung in a different direction.”