Final debate changes few opinions

Divided students feel candidates energized bases

Some AU students said both President Bush and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) appealed to their base of voters in the final debate Wednesday night.

"I'd say it's probably a draw," said Tim Meyer, a senior in the School of Communication after the Wednesday debate. "It's just a ground game now to turn out the votes."

Wednesday's debate, which took place at Arizona State University in Tempe, Ariz., focused on domestic policy. The candidates discussed several issues, including gay marriage, education policy and the future of Social Security. Members of the College Democrats, some College Republicans and others gathered in the McDowell Formal Lounge to watch the debate.

Nicholas Thorpe, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences who plans to vote for Bush, said the president did a better job than Kerry of answering questions directly. Kerry often referred to topics brought up earlier in the debate, he said.

"[Kerry] didn't dance around the issue, but he danced around answering the question," Thorpe said.

He said that Bush did well at what he had to do in Wednesday's debate - show both his down-to-earth human side and his intellectual side. "Bush had to come out a little stronger conservative and draw out the difference between them," Thorpe said.

Others thought Kerry performed well.

"I think Kerry kind of dispelled the notion that he's Frankenstein," said John Manthe, a freshman in the School of International Service and member of the College Democrats. "He was joking around, he was making fun of himself."

At one point, Kerry referenced the television show "The Sopranos" when he said, "Being lectured by the president on fiscal responsibility is a little bit like Tony Soprano talking to me about law and order in this country." Manthe, who plans to vote for the senator, said this was Kerry's best moment.

"Everybody can relate with that," he said. "That's the most effective thing in American politics, to compare politics to a TV show."

However, Christina Stephenson, a senior in the School of International Service, said Kerry was trying to be too much like Bush.

"He was not drawing a line between him and George Bush," said Stephenson, who plans to vote for Kerry. "He was trying to appeal to the same things Bush is good at."

The last question from Wednesday's moderator, Bob Schieffer of CBS News, asked both candidates what they learned from their wives and daughters. Both Bush and Kerry talked warmly about their families.

"That was a very nice example," said Meyer, who plans to vote for Bush. "It showed the personal side to both candidates."

Few students said they thought the debate would help Americans decide whom to vote for.

Thorpe said educated young adults and older adults were most likely to watch and dissect the debate, while candidates' campaigns would be more likely to change voters' minds.

"I think the only people watching the debate already know who they're going to vote for," Thorpe said. "People that have a medium level of education are more influenced by what the media tells them about each individual candidate."

Michael Warner, a 1998 graduate of the School of Public Affairs, was watching the debate in the lounge on the first floor of the Mary Graydon Center. He said it did not change his decision to vote for Kerry.

"It's just reinforcing my decision of who I'm going to vote for," Warner said.

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