Students gather to watch presidential debate

students for obama hosts streaming of presidential debate in fraiser hall.

Ali Haupt

students for obama hosts streaming of presidential debate in fraiser hall.

Friday night marked the first of the presidential debates, with Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama facing off on economic and foreign policy issues. On campus, students watched closely, cheering on their candidate like they would their favorite sports team. Students for Barack Obama gathered in a lecture hall in Fraser Hall, applauding for Obama and more than once groaning at McCain. When Obama addressed the television audience, one student waved at the projection screen, and when McCain brought up running mate Sarah Palin , he put his head on the table, seemingly exasperated. McCain also got a rise out of the crowd when he brought up his plan to veto congressional earmarks and when he said he didnâÄôt âÄúwin Miss Congeniality âÄù in the Senate. Some of ObamaâÄôs biggest lines came when he brought up making college affordable for students and mentioned government spending on the Iraq War, both gaining applause from the crowd. During the debate, students had harsh words for McCain. Elle Clunis , a first-year nursing student who attended the viewing party, said although she thought a McCain presidency would be better than that of President Bush , she said, “McCain’s an idiot.” Stephanie Johnson , a first-year student, said she would be upset if Obama lost the Nov. 4 election. “I think I’m going to cry if McCain wins,” she said. Travis Symoniak , a University of St. Thomas senior and head of Youth for McCain in Minnesota , said it was McCain, not Obama, who had the better debate. âÄúI know he has great foreign policy credentials,âÄù he said of McCain. âÄúHe knows what heâÄôs talking about when it comes to foreign policy.âÄù As a whole, Symoniak said he hopes the next debates focus more on policy and less on what he thought was bickering between the candidates. âÄúI really hope they just focus on the issues,âÄù he said. âÄúI hope they stay to what they believe in. I think there is a little too much bickering on both sides.âÄù A lecture room in Willey Hall was about one-third full during the debate, but it was a bit more subdued than the Students for Barack Obama. That doesnâÄôt mean the crowdâÄôs opinions werenâÄôt as strong. Kris Schwebler , a University junior, said he thought Obama had the edge in the debate. âÄúBarack Obama is primed to give the country the change it so desperately needs,âÄù he said. Katie Edmond , a first-year history student, said she thought McCain tried to paint Obama as naive. âÄúHe canâÄôt be more naïve than Sarah Palin,âÄù she said. Although Shana Conklin , a political science senior, said she plans to vote for Obama, she had kinder words for McCain. âÄúI think of all the Republicans who ran, he was the best choice,âÄù she said. At the end of the debate, the Willey Hall crowdâÄôs allegiance was clear. When asked, everyone in the crowd said Obama performed better in the debate than McCain. Still, recent polls show a statistical dead heat between the two candidates in Minnesota.