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Two students to engage in mock debate tonight

Mel Flanagan | Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Only two days after the presidential candidates squared off against each other for the last time before Election Day, two students with opposing political views will face each other in a similar fashion.


At 8 p.m. tonight in McKenna Hall Auditorium, one representative from College Republicans and one from College Democrats will argue their views in a mock debate, each in an attempt to convince the audience why their respective candidates would be the best choice for college students.


“Scholastic” Editor-in-Chief Clara Ritger, who will moderate the debate, said the event hopes to generate excitement for the election and increase awareness of current important issues.


“I think students do really at heart want to be able to participate in this election,” she said. “This is, for everyone, the first presidential election they can vote in, and this will just help them become more informed.”


The 90-minute debate will spend 15 minutes on each of six key topics that include jobs, debt, healthcare, religion, foreign policy and why a college student should vote for a certain candidate.


“What we’re trying to do with the last question is for the two students … to really persuade the audience about why they feel strongly about each of their respective candidates,” Ritger said. “We’re really trying to focus on the issues as they relate to college students and why one candidate or the other better represents college students’ interests.”


Each participant will be given two minutes at the beginning of each segment for an opening statement, and the remaining 11 minutes will allow for debate.


Senior Adam Newman, a member of the College Democrats, will argue on behalf of President Obama at tonight’s event.


“I’m a huge politics guy, and I’m really engaged in this election,” he said. “I know President Obama’s vision is the vision I support in this election. Anything I can do to help make sure the Notre Dame student body is involved is something important to me.”


Although Newman did not expect to be the sole Democratic debater when he volunteered to participate, he said he is looking forward to taking the stage. In preparation, he has memorized both opening and closing statements, as well as several talking points for “everything they could throw at” him.


“It is important to stay on the message,” Newman said. “One of the hardest things about these debates is being able to disseminate so much information and put it in a clear form students can understand.”


Senior Mickey Gardella, president of the College Republicans, said he has spent copious amounts of time researching in preparation for the debate.


“My primary goal is to articulate Mitt Romney’s previous experience and vision for America’s future, and how these make him the best choice to be our president on January 20,” he said.


Gardella, who has been involved in political debates before, said he is eagerly anticipating this evening’s event as well.


Leading up to the debate, students can vote in a mock presidential election, which is sponsored every four years by “Scholastic” and NDTV. Voting will take place between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. in the LaFortune Student Center, and from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. in McKenna Hall.


The ballot will include a candidate from College Libertarians, which chose not to present a debater.


The vote aims to teach students about the process of voting in an election, Ritger said. For example, although voting is anonymous, students are required to show a student ID, much like how several states are now requiring voter identification.


“The mock election is really well-received,” Ritger said. “It’s really easy, it’s low-cost, it’s very fast to go and do. Students are pretty enthusiastic about it because they want to see how their fellow students vote.”


Ritger hopes the debate and vote will encourage students to participate in the actual presidential election on Nov. 6.


“This president is going to be the president that we go into the workforce with,” she said. “We will all graduate in the next four years and it’s their policies that will really determine what percentage of our class is going to get jobs.”


After college students greatly influenced the 2008 election, Ritger said she would love to see next month’s election mimic that.


“I would love to see us have a real hand in the 2012 election,” she said. “We have the potential to be a voting body that they didn’t expect to come out on voting day. It’s going to be a close race, it’s all about who comes out.”