September 29, 2008

C.U. Democrats Have Mixed Opinions On Debates

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It was almost 9 p.m. on Friday and the countdown had started.
About 35 members of the Cornell Democrats huddled in a small living room in Ravenwood Apartments and passed around home-made Obama cupcakes while counting down the minutes to the first presidential debate in Mississippi.
When the faces of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) finally appeared, all chattering in the room died down, and all eyes were fixed on the screen.
Obama’s attacks on McCain, whether on flawed tax codes or on the invasion of Iraq, were met with approving nods, a raised fist in the air and a few high-fives.
The crowd also shared a few mocking laughs and shaking heads when McCain said that “government changed [the Republicans]” and “no matter what, we’ve got to cut spending.” When McCain claimed that Ronald Reagan was the person he admired the most, a chorus of moans swept the room.
Eventually more students entered the already crowded room — which started to feel like a sauna — and had to squeeze their way through to watch the debate in another room.
Most students stayed highly attentive throughout the debate. Conversations were limited to excited whispers, and elevated cheers were quickly shushed by students whose eyes were glued to the screen.
After the debate, it seemed that most members were generally pleased with Obama’s first direct speaking engagement with McCain.
“I think Obama won the debate because he appeared presidential, got his message across and showed that he could do the job,” said Ethan Felder ’09, president of the Cornell Democrats.
“Everybody liked Senator Obama’s performance. He managed to meld his extensive knowledge with his great rhetoric style. I am very happy that he was able to directly confront with Senator McCain,” said Sam Morgante ’09, vice president of the Cornell Democrats.
Both Felder and Morgante, however, agreed that Obama could have attacked McCain more aggressively.
At the same time, criticisms of McCain were not limited to his performance in the debate. Morgante said that McCain’s attempt to delay the debate last Wednesday was a “stunt.”
“After the stunt did not work, people would expect more than his standard rhetoric, but Senator McCain did not make any new points,” Morgante said.
Felder said that McCain failed to focus on the most important issues of the country.
“McCain spent the first 10 to 20 minutes talking about earmarks. It is a lot of money, but it is not a large proportion of the Federal budget. To spend so much time talking about it is ludicrous,” said Felder.
Michelle Garvie ’11, website designer of the Cornell Democrats, was disappointed that neither candidate took new stances in their first debate.
“They were walking on eggshells,” Garvie said.
“Personally, I am a little disappointed. I really like what Obama said, but he was getting petty in the end. With McCain, I fell like he was pulling the drama factor. The little substance he had was very spiced up,” she added.
Morgante would not declare a winner of the debate, saying that it was too early to tell.
“We still have to see how the debate is spined-off by the media and the chattering masses. The next few days are going to be important,” Morgante said.