The representatives sparred over issues of importance to voters, with special focus on issues of significance to young voters, including issues concerning the economy, the environment and foreign policy.
Representing the RU Dems and reflecting the views of Barack Obama was School of Arts and Sciences senior Alex Holodak. For the Republicans, School of Arts and Sciences sophomore Kyle Barry mirrored John McCain’s views to the small crowd of about 30 students.
When questioned on the economy, Barry reiterated Barack Obama’s alleged inexperience, while Holodak emphasized McCain’s apparent disillusionment.
“McCain is saying that the fundamentals of the economy are strong, when that’s just not realistic,” Holodak said.
Kerri Willson, the event’s moderator, asked about the candidates’ stances on the Bush Doctrine, a national defense policy that favors preemptive and preventive warfare, and has defined the last eight years of President Bush’s term in office.
“We’ve squandered our stance in the world with the Bush Doctrine,” Holodak said. “We’ve set a dangerous precedent.”
Holodak said the Bush administration created a fragile situation in Iraq. He suggested the country carry out a phased withdrawal, and said he disagrees with McCain’s stance on continuing the war.
“When we have college students that can’t afford to stay in school anymore, we can no longer afford to be the policemen of the world,” Holodak said.
Barry replied by contrasting the candidates.
“Obama’s plan is shady,” he said. “McCain has said we should leave with victory in Iraq. We’re making progress, you just never hear about it.”
Barry said just because Obama throws around the word ‘change’ a lot, doesn’t mean he will be a capable leader.
“I want someone who is qualified,” Barry said. “The rhetoric is not why you should vote for him.”
After the representatives answered the planned portion of the question-answer session, students spectators were asked to put forth their own questions to the debaters.
One question about media bias led to a lighthearted feud between the challengers.
“With the media, I don’t think anyone can dispute that it has been in favor of Barack Obama,” Barry said. “For college students, I would say watch Fox News every once in a while.”
But Holodak expressed different feelings about the news network.
“This is our time,” he said. “Every four years we get to make this decision. I do watch Fox News every once in a while – when I want to feel pissed off.”
President of the RU Dems Brett Tinder, who argued in previous debates for the RU Democrats, emphasized both political group’s desire for fresh representation at debates.
“Debates are a great opportunity for our groups to get new people involved,” said Tinder, a Livingston College senior.
Rutgers College sophomore Melissa Gotanco said the debate was helpful to her in making a decision come Election Day.
“I came to learn [because] I don’t know who I am voting for,” she said. “I learned a lot more about Barack Obama, and I think both [representatives] spoke well.”