Students gather to watch presidential debate

Joseph Edgecomb / The Collegian

While presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain were squaring off in Mississippi Friday, spectators flocked to the Bucket on campus to see how it unfolded.

As part of its Why1509? campaign to promote political awareness and voter participation at Fresno State, ASI publicized the debate to be viewed by students still on campus in the evening.

Although there were no food or drinks being served from behind the counter, ASI provided plenty of refreshments and a quiet atmosphere to watch.

“A lot of students are here probably when the debate is going to be,” said ASI Senator Sarait Martinez, who is helping coordinate the campaign. “So it’s really easier for [the students] just to go on campus and watch the debate.”

Two televisions were tuned in to ABC-30 for the more than 30 students in attendance Friday night. A number of news media outlets were present to catch reactions on camera.

Throughout the debate, McCain spoke at length on the need for increasing defense resources while tightening excessive spending in Washington.

“I’ve got a pen and I’m gonna veto every spending bill that comes across my desk,” McCain said.

Obama decried McCain’s plans to provide tax cuts to the rich. Obama’s own presidential agenda includes a 95 percent tax cut to working families and more availability of health care.

“We believe only what’s good for Wall Street but not Main Street,” said Obama.

He said McCain’s constituents have proven themselves ignorant of the struggling working class.
Both suggested the exploration of alternative energy sources to reduce dependence on foreign oil in order to keep U.S. dollars at home.

McCain, declaring the success of the latest troop surges that he supported, proposed a spending freeze on everything but defense and veterans’ assistance.

“We are winning in Iraq and we will come home with victory and with honor,” said McCain, citing the dangers of pulling out without a comprehensive plan.

Amidst instances of crosstalk between the candidates, Obama agreed with his opponent’s general principle on the war, but denied that it would be effective or practical.

“That’s using a hatchet where you need a scalpel,” Obama said. “No U.S. soldier ever dies in vain because they are carrying out the orders of their commander-in-chief.”

Applause rang out in the room when Obama discussed the importance of affordable college education, while personal remarks were uttered from several tables in the Bucket throughout the night.

While no forum was held for post-debate dialogue, many students expressed feedback between themselves at closing.

“I feel that Obama believes in helping those who are less fortunate,” said senior health science major Alita Espinoza. “Unfortunately, McCain tonight expressed that he will cut everything.”

Other students were a little more gracious of McCain’s performance, with considerable respect to his years of experience.

“I think as far as foreign policy goes, McCain made the strongest [impression],” said political science and business major Lauren Brown. “He’s got the background; he came across so much more knowledgeable; he’s been there, he’s done that; he knows what’s going on.”

Evaluations were given to everyone in attendance, allowing the audience to express concerns about the debate. ASI will use these to determine students’ knowledge of the issues and overall satisfaction of the event.

ASI will hold screenings for the vice presidential debate on Oct. 2 and for the two remaining presidential debates on Oct. 7 and Oct. 15. No clear plan has yet been made as to the location or procedure of these viewings; however, both will be announced upon the analysis of student surveys.

Martinez said in the effort to foster greater political responsiveness on campus, ASI will continue to distribute information on the upcoming elections while inviting students to participate in the Why1509? campaign.

“I think if students are educated on the issues concerning the propositions, they’re gonna be more likely to register and go out and vote,” Martinez said.

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