Second debate another yawner for students

by Tracy Ellingson

A chuckle here and a groan there were the only audible reactions from the nearly 20 University students in Coffman Memorial Union watching Wednesday night’s presidential debate.
The second of two showdowns between President Clinton and Republican underdog Bob Dole during the campaign season failed to turn out a clear winner among students present. In fact, several students in attendance said they have had enough of the repetitive nature of the answers from the two major party candidates and desired a new perspective.
Sam Albert, a graduate student in the Department of Mathematics said he felt both candidates had serious weaknesses that were very noticeable.
“Clinton was more specific than Dole (when answering questions),” Albert said. But, he added that Clinton should not have been so evasive in response to Dole’s continuous attacks on the President’s character.
Albert, who voted for Clinton in 1992 but is seriously considering voting for Reform Party candidate Ross Perot, said opening the debate to a third-party candidate would have forced the candidates to discuss issues other than the common themes reiterated in the previous presidential debates and the candidates’ stump speeches.
Both Dole and Clinton’s campaign committees objected to including Perot in the debate, citing polls that showed the Texas millionaire had no legitimate chance to win the November election.
Mark Paist, a senior in the Carlson School of Management, agreed with Albert that the addition of the third-party candidate would have helped improve the quality of the debate.
He said that a third candidate would require the president and Dole to better explain their positions on issues. Paist said he will likely vote for Green Party candidate Ralph Nader instead of Perot, however.
Jeff Johnson, an Institute of Technology junior, said though he felt Dole won Wednesday’s debate, he too will likely vote for a third party candidate.
Paist, however, said he felt that Dole did even worse than in the first debate.
Clinton holds a decisive edge in many national polls, commanding an average of 12-point leads across the country.
The president’s lead is even stronger in Minnesota, where he holds a 22-point lead in the most recent Star Tribune and WCCO poll that came out earlier this week.
The students present at Wednesday’s debate showing felt that Dole would not be able to make up the ground in time for the election.
Johnson said he felt that most people had made up their mind and the debate wouldn’t change that. Although both candidates tried to steer clear of the character issue, Johnson said he felt that was the biggest area where Clinton was vulnerable, and Dole should have attacked him there more vigorously.
Leah Drury, a CLA graduate said she knew that she would vote for Clinton a long time ago, but she watched the debates just to back up her belief in the president.