Recapping the second presidential debate

By on October 24, 2012

In America, debating has become somewhat of a spectator sport–even a blood sport at times. But how much of an impact do Presidential debates really have on the electorate, and how much weight should undecided voters put into a spectacle that encompasses everything audacious in American politics–from the pageantry to the finger-pointing, yes, the debates can be overwhelming. But are they still relevant?

President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney shake hands at the start of their second presidential debase at Hofstra University. MCT Campus

“I find the debates essential to influencing the public’s view on selecting a presidential candidate. I think it is Important for audiences to have questions of interest directed at the candidates so they can have a better understanding of their viewpoints,” said Shamika Tyson, an International Business student at UAB. 

A lot can be said about how the public views presidential debates from the major bump that Mitt Romney got in the polls after a strong performance in the first debate this election season. Romney managed to pull out of what some were calling a campaign tailspin. Commentators and even Republican campaign consultants like Ed Rollins to said “If [Romney] doesn’t do well in this debate, the game is over.” But after a strong performance in the first debate, the Romney campaign has seemingly come back from the dead, lending the notion that presidential debates are more important than we may realize. They feed our need for a good ole fashion person to person battle royale. The ancient Romans would be proud.

“It’s about how they carry themselves, and how they relate to common people,” Tyson went on to say. Getting Romney to relate to the average person has been a major obstacle that he and his campaign advisors have had to overcome. These forums, town hall debates and public appearances are a few ways that he has been trying to reach out to voters uncertain of whether or not they could sit down and actually have a beer with the guy.

However, after the lackadaisical performance by President Obama in the first debate, he seemed more lively and on the attack in the second, town hall debate. Funny how a single debate can have so much bearing on an election, yet people still want to say that they do not matter. 

“I thought the format was kind of silly. It seemed like a talk-show or televangelism when they were walking around and talking. That, and the moderator wasn’t that great either,” explained Chance Cunningham, an undecided, young Birmingham voter. 

The question of whether or not the debates really matter can be summed up with the classic Nixon/Kennedy paradox. People who listened to the 1960 presidential debate on the radio claimed Nixon won, but those who got to see his better looking opponent on the televised version claimed that Kennedy was the victor. It is all about perspective, and the one thing that really changes after a debate is how much that candidate’s base will rally behind him.

Debates help me get a sense of how human the candidates are from the way they answer impromptu questions and have timed responses as opposed to just reciting a prepared speech,” Tyson went on to say. Regardless of who wins the debates, the larger question still remains–who deserves to be the next president of the United States of America with the election a mere two weeks away.

Cody Owens
Staff Writer
cjowens@uab.edu

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