Michigan State students react to presidential debate

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by Kellie Rowe

For MSU media arts and information junior Ben Webber, the constant mud-slinging in the presidential race has got to go.

“Sometimes, it seems like they’re more worried about you understanding what the other guy is doing wrong rather than telling you their own ideas,” he said. “I feel really insulted that they think they can gain my vote using this technique.”

Webber is one of many Americans who tuned in Tuesday night for the second debate between President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

The town hall debate, held at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., gave the president a chance to make up for lost ground after his apparent loss in the last debate on Oct. 3. As viewers watched the candidates go head-to-head, some were concerned the aggressive critiques between the candidates was too much.

According to the latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, 37 percent of those polled felt Romney is too critical of his opponent, while 35 percent felt Obama is too harsh.

During the debate, the two sparred on numerous topics, with a particularly strong argument regarding each candidate’s pension.

“Mr. President, have you looked at your pension?” Romney said.

The president quickly responded.

“You know, I – I don’t look at my pension,” Obama replied. “It’s not as big as yours so it doesn’t take as long.”

Ignoring the jab, Romney continued.

“Well, let me give you some advice,” the governor replied.

Romney then launched into Obama regarding his investments in companies outside of the U.S, illustrating one of many examples of the hostile back-and-forth between the candidates during the debate.

MSU alumnus Clay Pemberton, who said he strongly identifies as a Republican, was rooting for Romney during the broadcast. Despite his strong political support for the candidate, Pemberton said he felt both could have toned it back a bit.

“(Discussion topics) shouldn’t be personal,” Pemberton said. “It should be 100 percent about policy and reform.”

As he watched the debate unfold, Webber said he felt Romney spent most of the time critcizing Obama’s actions, while the president attempted to scorn the governor’s beliefs.

“It seems like Romney is trying to push Obama in a corner with his attacks and the president is spending his time defending himself rather than fighting against Romney’s ideas,” Webber said.

Stating this was Romney’s only possible tactic to win the debate, Webber said Obama has action accomplishments during his presidency to cite as evidence he was a good leader.

However, recent reports show Romney has consistently been viewed as less critical of his opponent than most recent GOP predecessors, according to the same Pew Center report.

Although 37 percent of individuals said they feel Romney has been too personally critical of his opponent, this was the the lowest percentage of recent former Republican predecessors—, dating back to the days of the George H. W. Bush presidency in 1988.

As for Obama, his 22 percent in 2008 increased to 35 percent today.

MSU advertising junior Kayley Sopel said she isn’t surprised the percentage of individuals who felt Obama was too critical of his opponent were lower than Romney’s.

“Obama’s a pretty calm guy,” Sopel said. “His politeness probably led to his defeat in the last debate, but at least that was something I could respect.”

Sopel said she felt Obama could have been more aggressive in the last debate, but she still plans to vote for him later in the fall. Either way, she said the argumentative behavior expressed by both candidates in Tuesday’s debate wasn’t anything she was concerned.

“It wasn’t that bad,” she said. “In politics, you’re going to have some arguing no matter what.”

At one point, Obama did attempt to create understanding between the candidates.

“We need to create jobs here,” he said. “And both Governor Romney and I agree actually that we should lower our corporate tax rate. It’s too high.”

Of course, Obama did go on to mention the inadequacies of Romney’s tax plan.

As for Webber, he’s hoping the candidates will cut back on the critical behavior in the next debate on Monday, Oct. 22 regarding foreign policy/

“I’d rather hear about their plan of action instead of them telling me their idea of what isn’t right about the other candidate,” he said. “Sometimes, it seems they do this to distract you from their own beliefs, because they’re scared of what you’ll think or they don’t know how to answer the question.”

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