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Catawba, Livingstone students weigh in on debate

Those gathered to watch debate tend to favor Democratic ticketBy Hugh Fisher
hfisher@salisburypost.com
With just weeks to go before an election that may be decided by the youth vote, local colleges offered students a chance to critique Thursday night’s vice presidential debate.
Professors Margaret Simms Maddox and Da Tarvia Parrish of Livingstone College hosted a forum of their students, who took notes on each question and the responses of Sen. Joe Biden and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
At the end of the debate, students were to share their rating of each candidate’s response to the questions, striving for objectivity.
“We have a tendency to rate people we like highly,” Simms Maddox said.
But instead, she urged students to focus on candidates’ responses to the issues so they can make informed choices.
“While all the pundits are saying what they thought, you’re going to get to say what you thought,” she said.
Many students are voting in this election for the first time, although several said they voted in 2004.
Bryan Best said he voted for John Kerry in the last election. Kadejia Washington voted for George W. Bush. Both are now supporting Barack Obama.
Students at Livingstone’s forum said they were looking forward to learning more about the running mates Obama and Sen. John McCain have chosen.
Chelsea Johnson said she was looking forward to seeing Palin speak. “I’d like to see what makes her stand out next to John McCain … maybe to see what John McCain sees,” she said.
“I definitely want to know what Joe Biden is all about,” said Emanuel Quintero. “Is he strong enough to support Obama?”
While Livingstone students critiqued moderator Gwen Ifill’s presentation of questions and the candidates’ responses, other local students were gearing up to discuss the debate in today’s classes.
At Catawba College, Dr. J. Michael Bitzer’s political science students viewed the debate as an assignment for their U.S. Campaigns and Elections course.
They were tasked with a similar critique of how the candidates looked and responded.
Their consensus was that Palin’s responses showed signs of strict preparation, especially when she changed subjects without fully responding to a question.
“She was clearly given a set of facts to memorize and is altering the questions to fit what she memorized,” said Kevin Flebbe.
“She’s nervous,” said Gracie Greenbaum following one of Palin’s responses.
Jacqueline Allen noted Biden’s “safe answers” to some questions, but was surprised when he mentioned the 1972 deaths of his wife and their daughter in a car crash.
“I think this will do so much for Biden because she’s been in the news so often,” Allen said.
But on the whole, students don’t think the debate is likely to decide the election.
“It could go either way,” Greenbaum said.

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