With the nation watching, the two vice-presidential candidates squared off in their first and only debate last Thursday.
“This debate was more intense than the first presidential debate,” political science professor Craig Curtis said. “Both candidates were tightly focused and on task.”
All eyes were on Sen. Joe Biden and Gov. Sarah Palin.
“Governor Palin proved that she can go toe-to-toe with Senator Biden,” College Republicans President Zephanie Custer said.
College Democrats President Josh Cox said Palin exceeded expectations.
“She didn’t flop in the debate like many might have expected she would,” he said. “She didn’t have any huge blunders.”
A CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll found 84 percent of respondents thought Palin exceeded expectations. In that same poll, however, 51 percent thought Biden won the debate, while just 36 percent thought Palin won.
“Palin exceeded expectations,” Curtis said. “By college standards I would give her a C- and Biden a B+.”
Biden blamed the country’s economic crisis on lack of regulation, while Palin pointed to predatory lenders.
On foreign policy, Biden called for an exit strategy from Iraq while Palin painted Obama’s withdrawal plan as a “white flag of surrender.”
“Biden’s strong suit is foreign policy, and he did well on that,” freshman international business major Zach Tenny said. “Palin knows energy pretty well, so she wanted to talk about that.”
Another foreign policy disagreement was over the genocide in Darfur.
Biden favored putting troops on the ground to stop the bloodshed. Palin would not go that far, but said she supported imposing a no-fly zone over the region.
Both candidates accused the other’s running mate of voting to cut off funding for the troops. Biden said McCain voted against troop funding simply because of the timeline for withdrawal attached to the bill.
Palin claimed Obama promised not to cut off funding for the troops and then did.
“McCain will leave more power to those on the ground in Iraq, Afghanistan or whatever country we may enter to make the decisions,” Custer said.
When asked what promised policies they would sacrifice given the country’s economic condition, Biden conceded only that the US will have to slow down foreign assistance. Palin asserted that McCain has not made any promise he will not be able to keep.
“This is not accurate,” Cox said. “Tax cuts should be out of this campaign because once this $700 billion actually hits, I highly doubt there will be anyone whose taxes don’t go up.”
Palin tried to make the argument that McCain represents reform and change.
“The McCain/Palin ticket will bring reform by bringing more bipartisanship to the oval office,” Custer said.
Cox said he disagrees.
“McCain and Palin are as far away from new and different as possible,” he said. “Whether or not McCain likes or wants to admit it, bringing on a young woman does not make it new and different.”
Whomever voters decide will truly bring about change could win this crucial election, Curtis said.
“We are on the verge of an economic crisis and there is a chance to dramatically change our foreign policy,” he said. “This is the most important election since ’32.”