Candidates face off in televised debate

Political student groups held a screening of the debate at Willey Hall.

Stephanie Kudrle

Cheers and applause rang out from Willey Hall on Thursday night as students gathered to watch and discuss this year’s first presidential debate.

The largest lecture hall on campus was nearly full with students who watched the debate intently and reacted to each candidate’s answer.

Representatives from political student groups were on hand to answer questions from the crowd and debate about the candidate’s performances after the televised debate ended.

After the television was turned off, some students thought Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry had won the debate.

“Kerry had a stance throughout the debate,” said Kit Lim, an exchange student at the University. “(President George W.) Bush was attacking on the personal side, but he should tell people what he wants to do.”

Junior Ryan Peters agreed and said Kerry has more debate experience and a clearer message than Bush.

Not all the students were happy with the debate. First-year student Rob Chall said it wasn’t a fair debate because independent candidate Ralph Nader wasn’t included.

“Not all views were represented,” Chall said. “But it went well for the Democrats.”

Before the presidential debate began, moderator Karlyn Campbell, a University communications professor, explained the rules for the student discussion and gave the audience clues on what to look for from the candidates.

“These debates will be the symbolic behavior of how these two men would behave as president,” she said.

During the student discussion, Bethel student Jake Grassel, chairman of the Minnesota College Republicans, said Bush accomplished his objective in the debate.

“He needed to reconfirm his solid stance on keeping America safe, and I think he did that,” Grassel said.

University student Chris Montana, chairman of the College Democrats of Minnesota, said Kerry didn’t fall into a trap of being negative and proved he had a solid position on Iraq.

Matthew Tajbakhsh, chairman of the College Greens, said he was frustrated because there wasn’t really a choice in this election.

“We are living in a democracy where we are voting against people we hate rather than voting for people we like,” he said.

Ty Moore, a representative of Students for Ralph Nader, said he’s not going to vote for Kerry or Bush because they are essentially the same person.

“Neither of them appeal to the broad section of U.S. society,” he said. “It’s a theatrical game.”

In addition to the debate among the group leaders, there was a debate between moderator Campbell and Bush-supporter Grassel.

Junior Elsa Karman said she felt Campbell let her bias get in the way of her job.

“It was not very fair, each person could have been addressed by their name,” she said, referring to the way Campbell called every candidate except Grassel by his or her name.

Larayne Tschetter agreed and said even Democrats were saying the moderator was not objective.

“She was very rude,” Tschetter said. “She didn’t even ask questions the audience wrote; she made up her own questions.”