Plenty of views on first presidential debate
By Hugh Fisher
SALISBURY — As some watched Wednesday’s first presidential debate in their living rooms around the city, others gathered to cheer their candidate or just to learn more.
At the Rowan County Republican headquarters, county chairman Greg Edds and 11 volunteers broke open refreshments and sat on sofas as if they were in their own big living room.
Across town, Livingstone College students and members of the community watched the debate on a large projection screen inside the administration building.
As the debate got under way, Edds took a moment to joke about how he’d react: a bright orange air horn to drown out statements he didn’t like, and a cowbell to punctuate those he did.
On a more serious note, Edds said the debate had created high expectations for local Republicans.
“We get to hear (the candidates) unfiltered from the media,” Edds said.
With just about a month until election day, Edds said, “there is a group of people who are yet undecided, and certainly the debates will be the events that will help them make the decision.”
Even so, Edds said he expects the state to go solidly Republican in 2012.
“I truly believe that North Carolina will vote for Romney, for McCrory, to return the House and Senate to Republican control, and put us back on a path to being competitive…” Edds said.
---- As Romney attacked what he called Obama’s “crushing” policies on the energy industry, there were murmurs of approval at GOP headquarters.
---- As the president spoke on the economy, there were murmurs of “Yeah, right” and “Sure.”
---- “I think President Obama seems much less on his game than he usually is,” said Jordan McSwain, an intern with the Rowan GOP and a student at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College.
---- “Tonight, it seems like (Obama’s) sentences are filled with filler phrases ... and Romney seems to be more prepared,” Swain said.
---- Across town, Livingstone College students and members of the community watched the debate on a large projection screen inside the administration building.
---- Professor Margaret Simms-Maddox, chair of the political science department at Livingstone College, helped coordinate the event, held in conjunction with the Rowan County NAACP.
---- “I’m glad that people from throughout the surrounding community and the (Congressional) district were able to be here,” Simms-Maddox said.
---- This debate viewing, which followed a forum for local political candidates, was more formal.
---- Political science students were working on an assignment for class, rating the candidates on their emotions and the quality of their responses to questions.
---- Before the debate began, the professor asked the audience to show respect and refrain from comments.
---- “Ours is a setting for civil discourse,” Simms-Maddox said. “This is a college campus. We’re here to teach how the process works.”
---- Shakara DeCarlis, a junior majoring in political science, said she felt both candidates were doing a good job of getting their point across, “despite the fundamental differences in their belief.”
---- “In my personal opinion, President Obama is coming off the strongest,” DeCarlis said. “I feel like Mitt Romney is contradicting himself a lot.”
---- Jeremy Ratcliff, a senior political science major, was hesitant when asked who he felt was leading the debate. “Right now, Romney seems to be winning,” Ratcliff said. “However, he’s only winning because he’s pointing out the flaws.”
---- “If I had a word of advice for the president, it would be to be a little bit more aggressive,” Ratcliff said.
---- Reached by phone, Rowan County Democratic Party Chair Valeria Levy had been at Livingstone for the candidate forum, but said she watched the debate at home with her kids.
---- Levy said she felt Romney was the debate winner, but not because of his message.
---- “I think he won because he overtalked the moderator ... and he bullied his way through the debate,” Levy said.
---- “The president gave factual information, and Romney told people what they wanted to hear,” Levy said.
---- Levy said she thinks Romney’s message is being dictated by the Tea Party wing of the GOP, and argued that some of Romney’s statements were “not factual.”
---- “He did create the health care plan in Massachusetts, and he continues to kind of back off it,” Levy said.
---- “(Obama) is the smartest person in the room, but he doesn’t have the ability to give a quick, one-word answer,” Levy said.
---- But, she said, the debates clearly showed the candidates’ differences. And Levy said she believes the debate will build momentum for Democrats in state and local offices, just as in Obama’s 2008 run.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor's desk at 704-797-4244.