October 12, 2000

Students View Presidential Debate, Evaluate Candidates' Positions

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Dozens of students gathered in the Robert Purcell Community Center (RPCC) last night to witness the second presidential debate between Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

Last night’s debate offered Bush and Gore the opportunity to sharpen their images and reach more voters who are tuning in to the campaign as the election nears.

“Both of them have very good points, very good policies, which will enable the candidates to solidify their traditional party bases,” Destiny Raniere ’03 said.

But to really reach out to those voters — especially on college campuses — that remain undecided, Raniere said that somebody will have to speak up on issues that hit closer to home for students, like the death penalty and gay and lesbian rights.

On those issues, “I don’t agree with either of them,” she said.

Geoffrey Booth ’03 also remained discontent about the candidates’ positions.

“I wish one of them had come out and supported same-sex marriages,” he said. For now, he is reserving his favor for Gore, who insisted that civil rights be retained by all couples, hetero- or homosexual.

“There was a noticeable shift in the strategies of both candidates from the first debate,” said Rathin Yagnik ’02. “Gore appeared to be deliberately plebeian in light of his critique of the Boston debate, but he definitely was able to successfully corner Bush on several key issues.”

Other students thought Bush won the upper hand in this debate.

“Bush gained more, because Bush had more to gain,” said Thomas Mastrangelo ’04, who saw last night’s debate as a battle between Bush’s likeability and Gore’s strength on the issues.

At times during the debate, Bush and Gore moved away from their traditional arguments, seeking to steal voters from the opposition. David Lloyd ’04 held firm to the belief that these attempts, like Bush’s move to reach out to Gore’s liberal base early in the debate, were futile.

Calling for third-world debt relief and rainforest preservation would not swing many Cornellians Bush’s way, Lloyd said, noting, “I don’t think any liberals would vote for Bush based on tonight’s debate.”

Lloyd added that though Bush would have had difficulty winning a liberal Cornell crowd regardless of what he said, the Republican nominee could have spent more time discussing his perspective on issues such as health care.

“At least he could have tried,” Lloyd said. “Bush never really responded to the health care deficiency in Texas.”

Each one has particular priorities. You can’t do everything,” J. P. George ’04 said. “Unfortunately Gore tries to do that, and he’s spreading himself too thin.”

For George, issues that carried a lot of weight — such as military preparedness and foreign policy — worked to Bush’s advantage.

Soon after the debate’s conclusion, the national public declared its own spontaneous decision. In a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll immediately following the broadcast from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, 49 percent of the debate viewers gave victory to Bush, 36 percent to Gore.

Archived article by Matthew Hirsch