Classroom Connection: Reviewing the Three Presidential Debates
Our Classroom Connection students had plenty to say about the three presidential debates. They noticed the back and forth arguments that characterized much of the debates. Read their impressions of who won and who lost in these three important pre-election contests.
Credit: AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

Classroom Connection: Reviewing the Three Presidential Debates

Election Central’s Classroom Connection asks two AP Government classes at Worthington Kilbourne High School in Worthington, Ohio to give their opinions on the events of this year’s presidential campaign race.

Here, the students weighed in on the three presidential debates. –ed.

The First Debate

The first presidential debate was dominated by Mitt Romney. Romney emerged as the winner for multiple reasons. For starters, Romney appeared more comfortable on stage. He was engaged when President Obama was speaking and had charisma when he was speaking. This is contrary to Obama’s demeanor which was disinterested and lacking enthusiasm.

Romney also was able to get many of his main points in, such as his “five point plan.” Obama was not able to get as many points in this way. Another reason I personally believe that Romney was victorious in this debate was because he was very moderate and appealed to many undecided voters by not going too far right. Romney knew he already had all the votes of the extreme right so he focused on appealing to the middle part of the political spectrum. For example, Romney assured voters he was not going to cut taxes for the wealthy, but instead focus on the middle class which “has been buried in the last four years.”

The debate format played into Romney’s debating style well. He was aggressive and fought for his time to speak and when he did speak he attacked Obama. Obama on the other hand, laid back and let the attacks come. This debate format favored Romney because he was more engaged the entire time and the debate was left open, allowing anybody to control it. Personally, I liked this debate format because it allowed me to hear both sides full arguments and total justification without being interrupted by the monitor.

The result of this debate was a revival in the Romney campaign. According to a CNN poll, 67% of Americans believed Romney won the debate, which is a commanding two-thirds majority. With this type of a win Romney should be able to gain on Obama’s lead and make this a very close presidential race.

The Second Debate

Both President Obama and Governor Mitt Romney felt that they had something to prove in the second presidential debate.  Romney felt the need to keep the momentum from his strong performance in the first debate, and Obama needed to “stop the bleeding” in the polls as a result of the first debate.  Since the second debate was in the format of a town hall, the candidates were given questions straight from undecided voters who wanted to know the truth about the candidates’ plans.

Some of the main topics focused on during this debate were jobs, immigration, tax cuts, energy, and the Middle East.  Both candidates were able to make valid points on all topics and seemed to be well-spoken, which made this debate much closer than the first debate.

The diverse backgrounds and experiences of Obama and Romney were very apparent in their discussions.  Romney clearly and strongly presented his economic plan, describing tax cuts, job creation, and education.  Obama won the hearts of many Americans with his explanation of foreign affairs.  He explained his successes in that field over the past 4 years and was able to display a much better understanding of current foreign issues than Romney.

The main thing that the candidates were fighting for was the support of the middle class.  Obama seemed to differentiate himself from Romney in this area during this debate.  He was able to reassure people that things will get better despite Romney pointing out the flaws of the last 4 years.  This one topic is what ultimately put Obama ahead in this debate.  Obama’s successin this debate seemed to put a halt to Romney’s climb in the polls.  This debate was the closest so far, and hints at how tight this race will continue to be throughout the rest of the campaigning season.

The Third Debate

It was evident to almost all in our class that the third presidential debate on October 3 yielded an obvious winner. Mitt Romney hit the ground running, constantly attacking Obama. Romney was aggressive and whether you liked that or not, it was clear that was his tactic for this debate if Romney was to strengthen his showing.

The lack of enthusiasm on the president’s side did not go unnoticed. Obama was clearly not on his game, and it showed with him stuttering some of his words, amongst other things. How to address the tax burden on the middle class was not clear, because the candidates were constantly finding something wrong with their opponent’s plan.

Overall, the attitude of the debate was quite negative–especially with Romney consistently hammering Obama. But that is to be expected since this election is a dog fight. There was a lot of  bickering and interrupting between the two candidates. The debate didn’t really reveal much more about either candidate’s plans for our nation.

The winner of the third Presidential debate was very unclear. Overall as a class, the general consensus was that neither candidate won. The debate was mainly over foreign policy. There was a lot of discussion over Syria, and how to deal with the war that’s going on there. Both candidates want to work on getting rid of Bashar-al-Assad. They also talked about the U.S. Navy. Romney criticized Obama for not improving the Navy, while Obama said that building more ships was an out of date concept. I wish they had discussed more about the Benghazi attack on the consulate in Libya. There is still a lot of uncertainty about what happened with that event. They also discussed military spending, Romney pointed out that he has experience balancing budgets while Obama questioned how his proposed tax cuts would effectively work. Both candidates agreed that an attack on Israel would be like an attack on the United States.

The class thought that the overall attitude of the debate was still negative because the candidates were attacking each other too much. I do believe that the candidates were the most respectful in this debate over the others. The moderator, Bob Schieffer, was also the best one yet.  The candidate’s foreign policy views are overall very similar. They both want to accomplish the same things, such as getting rid of Bashar-Al-Assad and defending Israel. Their positions are probably so similar because neither one wants to start another full-blown war during their presidency.

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David Martin


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