September 29, 2008

College Republicans Applaud McCain’s Performance

Print More

Energetic applause seemed to follow much of Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-Ill.) rhetoric during the first presidential debate as it was shown in Bailey Hall on Friday night. However, Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) cheering section — headed up by the Cornell College Republicans — was confined mostly to the first row.
But this was no surprise for the McCain supporters. Pointing out the liberal tendency of Cornell’s student body, J.B. Rajsky ’11, the second vice chair for the College Republicans, alluded to former governor Mike Huckabee’s speech at Cornell last April when he described the political ideology of the majority of Cornell students as a little “left of center.”
Even though much of the audience was part of Obamanation, Justin DiGennaro ’12 noted that throughout the debate, everyone was respectful towards McCain’s views.
While the audience might have been willing to hear McCain speak, the pro-Obama sentiments were still visible. Rajsky noticed that even when the two candidates seemed to agree on an issue, the reaction of the audience was still largely in favor of Obama.
Though the majority of the crowd’s praise went to Obama throughout the debate, Rajsky said, “I think Senator McCain was the clear winner of this debate … And while this is probably not the opinion of the majority of students at Cornell, I believe that most undecided voters would tend to agree that McCain performed better than Obama this time around.”
One area in which many felt McCain excelled was his discussion of the Iraq War.
“Senator McCain was clearly stronger than Senator Obama when it came to the Iraq War,” said Ray Mensah ’11, chairman of the College Republicans.
Mensah said that Obama continued to label his initial opposition to the Iraq War “as evidence of his good judgment.” However, Obama was against the troop surge in Iraq that many feel has been successful.
“Sadly, Senator Obama has said that, even knowing what he now knows about the end-results of the surge, he would have opposed it. That’s not sound judgment,” Mensah said.
Throughout the debate, Obama tried to link McCain to the Bush administration while McCain tried to highlight his own experience to contrast it with Obama’s.
“The fact of the matter is that Senator McCain has opposed the Republican Party and President Bush on many issues such as campaign finance reform, torture, the environment, the initial handling of the Iraq War strategy and spending,” Mensah said. Because of McCain’s willingness to criticize the Bush administration, Mensah believes Obama’s attempt to associate McCain with Bush has “largely fallen flat.”
Rajsky believes that McCain’s tendency to stress his experience in the Navy and in Congress was a successful way to draw distinct contrast between himself and Obama.
“During the debate, Senator McCain highlighted his extensive experience and service to our country in order to draw out the distinct differences between himself and Senator Obama,” Rajsky said. “McCain did a great job of explaining not only why he is qualified to be president, but also why Obama is completely unqualified to be our next Commander-in-Chief.”
While much of the debate focused on foreign policy, Jim Lehrer, the moderator, began the debate with a question about the economy. In light of the current financial crisis and the government bailout package of $700 billion on which Congress will vote today, Lehrer asked, “At this very moment tonight where do you stand on the financial recovery plan?”
DiGennaro was very impressed with McCain’s stance on fiscal responsibility, something he said was lacking under the current administration.
Rajsky was surprised with how much both candidates agreed. Obama tried to pin McCain with unwise tax policies that would cut $300 billion in taxes for some of the richest corporations and individuals in the country, and McCain tried to label Obama as contradictory by pledging to limit pork barrel spending even though he supported $932 million in earmarked, pork-barrel spending.
However, both candidates agreed that government spending and earmark reform was a main issue that needed to be resolved to combat the current crisis. Many felt that neither McCain nor Obama were too explicit in their convictions and intentions for the recovery plan. Rather, they stated generally what caused the crisis and explained their intentions to modify and fix those areas in their administration.
Despite constant prodding from the moderator, Rajsky found it interesting that Obama never said what he would cut in order to minimize spending. He highlighted different things that were crucial and vital to achieve for the country, and he mentioned that they were not going to be able to do everything, but he neglected to mention if he was president what he would forgo in order to minimize government spending.
Mensah believes that, as shown through the debate, McCain’s economic policies would work better than those professed by Obama.
While many of the College Republicans went into the debate McCain supporters, and walked out of Bailey Hall after the debate just as adamant in their support for the Arizona senator, they attempted to watch the debate objectively to get the best read on both candidates.
“As with anything else, I went into the first presidential debate with an open mind, trying not to let my own support for Senator McCain and Governor [Sarah] Palin affect how I viewed the performances of Senators McCain and Obama,” Mensah said.
Rajsky acknowledged how previous support for a candidate could easily impact how one viewed the debate.
“I think my convictions played a large part in how I viewed the debate. While I tried to remain objective, I couldn’t help but think that McCain performed much better than Obama, but I am sure that most Obama supporters would disagree with me on this point,” Rajsky said.
Their pledges of objectivity notwithstanding, many of the members of the College Republicans were motivated to show their support for their candidate during the debate, especially because of the support shown to Obama and the opposition shown to McCain from the majority of the audience.
In one instance, McCain referenced his support and fondness over picking Governor Palin, a fellow “maverick”, as his running mate. The audience reacted very negatively to this statement, provoking many College Republicans to applaud their support for Palin to combat the reactions from the rest of the audience.