Clustered in different places throughout the University such as Beef O’ Brady’s and Maple Hall, students gathered to watch the last presidential debate of the election season between Republican candidate Sen. John McCain and Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama, televised from Hofstra University in Long Island, N.Y.
Two notable issues seemed to divide the pair: abortion and alternative energy.
Both candidates were asked whether they would appoint somebody to the Supreme Court who didn’t agree with them on Roe v. Wade.
Obama, a pro-choice supporter, said it should be up to the families to decide whether an abortion should take place.
Belgica Cucalon, a sophomore majoring in humanities and American studies, is a pro-choice supporter. Cucalon said she thinks that Obama’s case is based on the reality of the United States and that McCain’s overall performance during the debate was weak.
McCain, a pro-life supporter, said he wants to change American culture to lean toward anti-abortion policies.
Colin Engwall, an undecided freshman and McCain supporter, said he agrees with McCain because he believes that when it comes to Roe v. Wade, his core values and beliefs are at stake.
Foreign oil was also a hot topic during the debate. McCain said he wants to build 45 nuclear plants and focus on clean coal production to wean the U.S. off its dependency on foreign oil. Obama said he’d rather invest the money used to buy foreign oil into producing alternative energy sources.
“I think they are both right, but I lean more toward McCain,” Engwall said. “We need to explore using nuclear energy. People are really freaked out about the environment, and both candidates are going to take positive steps toward it. I just think McCain’s policy is more aggressive.”
Overall, most students said the debate format was more successful than that of the previous two debates.
Louis Reich, a sophomore majoring in communications, was sitting with two of his friends at Beef ‘O’ Brady’s to watch what he called, “the most engaging debate of the year.”
“The candidates were more direct on the issues and finally started acknowledging each other,” he said. “In the previous two debates, they seemed to have a sheet of talking points they wanted to address. It was really good to see them acknowledging each other’s claims and trying to show why each of them was better suited to be president.”
Susan MacManus, a political professor at USF, said she thought a debate that was supposed to focus on the economy focused on other issues that weren’t as important to the American people.
“I don’t think there was enough emphasis on the economy at a time when the economy is going through a crisis and during a debate that was advertised as being about the economy,” she said.
MacManus said she thought the debate centered around issues that were related to the crisis but didn’t necessarily address the issue.
“Both candidates gave unsatisfactory answers when (moderator Bob Shaffer) asked them why their policies would increase the deficit and not decrease it,” she said.
Nineteen days from the election, both candidates had their last chance to impress undecided voters and convince those who had picked a candidate that they had made the right choice.
McManus said she believes that this debate alone won’t decide how the election turns out. On the contrary, it will only reinforce what the bulk of Americans think about their candidate, while pushing undecided voters a little further toward the candidate they are leaning to the most.