The first presidential debate may not have swayed any votes in the room or produced many cheers or jeers, but the candidates received the full scrutiny of those who attended Brookdale Community College’s watch party Wednesday night.
“If I were Romney, I would have taken a few different turns. For me, seeing what Obama has done and what he’s capable of doing, my mind was pretty much made up for anybody but Obama,” said 25-year-old Eatontown resident Matt Riccardi.
The former Marine and Brookdale graduate, who is currently studying at the University of Pennsylvania, returned to his alma mater for a debate viewing party hosted by the college’s History and Political Science Club. Patch partnered with Brookdale, inviting community members to watch President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney square off in the domestic policy debate. Nearly 40 students and Monmouth County residents took part in the watch party and the lively discussion that followed.
Club members handed out surveys to the audience prior to the debate, asking who they were likely to vote for. Of those who filled out the survey, 18 supported Obama, 11 were for Romney, one was for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, and one person wrote none. However, an informal showing of hands for who had won the debate gave 10 to Romney, six to Obama and 12 for a tie.
“Romney seemed to say more. He had more words to get his point across in speaking. Obama was speaking so much slower. He didn’t seem to be respecting the time limit,” said Morganville resident Evelyn Moreno, 20. She found the president’s debate style frustrating at times.
Brookdale student Andrew O’Hare of Colts Neck said Obama’s stronger showing in recent polls meant that it wasn’t politically advantageous for him to take risks during the debate.
“Obama didn’t need to win the debate. He just needed to not blow himself up and he didn’t. He can lose the battle if he’s winning the war,” said O’Hare, who was one of two students who burned out the battery on their iPhones tweeting and fact checking during the debate.
Middletown resident Germania Pena-Spaulding said she likes Obama but wanted to give Romney a chance to describe his plan for helping the country’s economic trouble. She was disappointed by a lack of specifics and what she characterized as Romney’s focus on social labels.
“I think he slipped up when he said ‘poor children.’ There are no poor children. There are children. He always seems to have these social class labels,” Pena-Spaulding said.
The nuanced discussion following the debate showcased how tuned in the students are to the issues influencing the election, according to Brookdale Community College History and Political Science Club advisor Jonathan Moschberger.
“We have terrific students. I was really impressed with the level of comments,” Moschberger said. “And I think the survey results and the debate outcome results showed they could be objective, because clearly, based on the survey results, most of them supported Obama.”