If former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney won the first debate against President Barack Obama on Oct. 3, Obama gained back traction in Tuesday nights town hall-style debate, and USF students were quick to pick up on it.
Answering questions posed by undecided voters selected by the Gallup organization, Obama took control of the debate on topics ranging from student job prospects upon college graduation to diplomacy in Libya.
I feel like there was a perception (after the last debate) that Obama didnt assert himself enough, Colton Canton, a junior majoring in political science and creative writing and president of USF College Democrats, said. (This) was a very spirited debate. There is obviously a lot of tension between them.
Moderated by Candy Crowley, CNNs chief political correspondent, the debate took place at Hofstra University in New York in a town hall format that allowed the candidates to literally jump to their feet on topics close to Americans hearts.
One of the topics most pertinent to college students was the first one addressed, when the question of whether or not soon-to-be college graduates will have jobs waiting for them, was asked by a Hofstra student.
Your question is one being asked by college students all across the country, Romney said.
Romney said he had a two-step plan that would help students prepare for their futures, including making it easier for students to attend college and making sure jobs await them afterward.
The last four years have been very, very hard for Americas young people, Romney said. We are bringing back an economy. We are going to make sure when you graduate (that) youre going to get a job.
Obamas answer to the same question focused more on the overall picture of the U.S., such as improving the economy, creating jobs and improving college systems as a means to provide a better future for youth.
Your future is bright and the fact that you are making an investment in higher education is critical, Obama said.
By building on the 5 million jobs created in the private sector in the past several months and by creating more jobs in manufacturing and the energy industry and making sure the U.S. has the best college
systems in the world, everyone will be able to get an education, Obama said.
Conversation quickly changed to other topics, touching on specifics not covered in the first debate, such as policies in regard to funding Planned Parenthood and the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Libya last month, which resulted in the death of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
Romney feels comfortable having officials in Washington making decisions on womens healthcare, Obama said. Planned Parenthood is a pocketbook issue for women and families across the country Ive got two daughters and I want to make sure that they have the same opportunities as anyones sons do.
The debate was characterized by tension between both candidates, as they both pointed out instances of the other failing to follow their own policy and interrupted each other when making their points.
This wasnt any clearer than during discussion on Ambassador Stevens death and whether or not Obama declared it a terrorist act.
When Romney claimed that Obama had not, Crowley corrected him and the on-stage audience applauded.
(The debate) was wonderful. Im supporting Obama, Wale Ajayi, a graduate student studying electrical engineering, said at a debate watch party event outside the Marshall Student Center. I think he won the debate, hands down. He was giving clear points and Romney wasnt very composed.
Though the debate was officially focused on both domestic and foreign issues, the economy maintained a large presence. With 12.5 million people unemployed, according to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, what the next president will do to improve the economy is an important topic for most voters.
Under the last four years (the middle class) has been buried, Romney said. This is about bringing good jobs back for the middle class of America.
Obama focused on the job creation seen in the past several months and how focusing on improving education and taking control of the U.S. energy consumption will allow for further growth as the country
recovers from the worst recession since the great depression.
Many students felt Obama maintained control of the debate.
Obama got his groove back, Kelly Ferrell, a sophomore majoring in theater arts, said. He was a little timid last time, but with this one he had his stats and power ready to go.
Overall, throughout the debate it was clear that Romney and Obama have different stances on many issues that are part of the national dialogue.
I thought it was a really great debate, Canton said. There is obviously two fundamental visions for America here.
Additional reporting by Roberto Roldan and Elizabeth Engasser