Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole and President Bill Clinton met Wednesday evening for their second and final debate, drawing differing reviews from students who watched the broadcast intently.
In contrast to the first presidential debate, held on Oct. 6, last night's debate was conducted in a town hall format. The audience was composed of a cross-section of various socioeconomic classes, races and genders living in the San Diego area. Audience members asked the candidates about issues ranging from the longevity of social security benefits to education and foreign policy.
While watching the debate in the Blackwell Dormitory commons room, members of the College Republicans appeared to be in good humor, talking amongst themselves and cheering when Elizabeth Dole appeared on the television screen. During Dole's opening statements, the group watched intently, while they jeered at Clinton's introductory remarks.
Many members of College Republicans said they believed that Dole won Wednesday's debate, while the candidates' performances in the first debate were on the same level. "Dole came on stronger and Clinton couldn't retaliate," said Trinity freshman Nicole Carter. "Last time was a dead heat."
Trinity senior Rajeev Goyle, president of the Duke Democrats, had an alternative opinion, however. "Clinton clearly won the debate," he said. Goyle added that he believes the town hall format better suited Clinton's style .
The Republicans said they viewed Dole's repeated references to Clinton's character as an effective tool in the debate. Carter said that she believes character issues are important in the election because "American young people need to have good role models."
The group laughed and cheered following Dole's numerous comments regarding the scandals surrounding the Clinton administration. When Dole remarked that the American people "see scandals on an almost daily basis," group members clapped enthusiastically.
"Dole forced Bill Clinton to answer for his actions" said Trinity junior Michael Bowling, chairman of College Republicans.
Goyle, however, said he views Dole's remarks about the scandals surrounding the Clinton administration as a last ditch effort to gain points in the polls.
"Clinton stayed above fray and focused on issues, not insults... [He] shows character through his record and achievement" Goyle said. He added that "Clinton deftly took care of Dole's desperate attempt to attack [his] character."
Goyle said he believes that Dole's emphasis on character was misplaced, since voters care more about other issues of the campaign. Dole's approach "cheapened the debate," he said.
Nevertheless, some members of the College Republicans said that Clinton still cannot be trusted. "Clinton did make a lot of promises in his '92 campaign that he didn't keep and [promises] he totally went against," said engineering freshman John Fred.
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Foreign policy was another issue on which many students attacked Clinton. "Why kill Palestinians when we can kill Americans?" Fred said about the United States' role in the Middle East.
Both Bowling and Goyle said that they do not feel the debates will have a great impact on the outcome of the election. "Clinton's lead is solid, and this debate showed it," Goyle said.