President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney squared off in their first debate Wednesday evening, hoping to persuade undecided voters on education and tax issues and highlighting college costs within the first few minutes of the debate.
During their most high-profile appearance since the summer conventions, the two traded blows in the national spotlight at the University of Denver, addressing the current state of the economy and the job market, among other issues. The candidates also focused on the middle class, taxes and higher education.
“We have got to invest in education and training,” Obama said. “Ultimately, it’s going to be up to the voters, to you, which path we should take.”
Romney agreed, linking education to the country’s economic situation.
“I agree education is the key to the future of our economy,” Romney said.
On campus, student government and political groups hosted viewing parties to watch to debate. Both ASMSU, MSU’s undergraduate student government, and MSU College Democrats hosted their own events.
Before the debate, student political leaders said each candidate needs to assure the youth population of their hopes for the job market, agreeing this is one of their big concerns in the upcoming election.
Rawley Van Fossen, vice president of MSU College Democrats, said he is hoping to get his teaching certificate, and by far feels as if the president’s policies will be much more effective than Romney’s.
“Mitt Romney wants to have the idea (of) this trickle-down economic policy … and that hasn’t worked throughout history,” Van Fossen, a social relations and policy sophomore, said.
Cody Hibbs, the vice chair of MSU College Republicans, said the stage of the first debate put Romney on a level of equity with Obama, giving him an advantage.
“Romney comes out looking a little better as people get to see him on the same level as the president,” said Hibbs, a supply chain management senior.
MSU political analysts said last night’s debate alone is not likely to weaken Obama’s significant lead in the polls.
Larry Hembroff, the director of the Office for Survey Research, a division within the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research, said surveys show Obama supporters are more committed than Romney’s and less likely to jump ship.
According to a New York Times article, the first debate typically has helped the challenger’s poll numbers, including in the 2004 and 1996 elections.
In some of the most recent polls, Obama is leading by at least the margin of error — a lead he said the debate will not dramatically affect.
“(It) means it would probably take a major gaffe or error on Obama’s part to lose supporters,” Hembroff said.