By Jackson Booth, Reporter
Hundreds of students filled the lecture hall at the College of Public Affairs and Community Service building on Oct. 3, anxious to watch the first of three presidential debates.
The Presidential debate between President Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney was held at the University of Denver and was moderated by Jim Lehrer.
The Office of Academic and Student Affairs hosted DebateWatch along with the School of Communication, under the leadership of Dr. Barb Pickering. The watch has been organized for several election seasons; however, this year the School of Communication took a different approach, utilizing Twitter.
Students could post their thoughts about the debate in real time on Twitter by simply using a UNO specific hash tag. Throughout the debate, there were two screens displayed. One had the actual debate streaming, while the other had a Twitter page open.
“We created the hash tag essentially for us to track our own conversations at UNO amongst the millions of conversations [across the country],” communications professor Dr. Adam Tyma said.
Tyma was asked to pioneer the Twitter component of the debate and was excited about this unique opportunity. He was also pleased at the turnout for the event.
“We have a room that’s over capacity right now,” Tyma said. “This is above expectation. This is fantastic.”
Typically the School of Communication and the Office of Academic and Student Affairs holds only one DebateWatch during election season, but given the attendance, Tyma said there could be a possibility for more events like this.
“This is the only one we had planned to do,” Tyma said. “Given the turnout, I could see some doors being knocked on at this point.”
Before the debate began, students were asked to keep their comments to themselves because the event was intended to be non-partisan. Students did show some reaction to various statements being made at times.
The debate centered on key issues, like taxes, spending, jobs, health care and Medicare.
One of the tense portions of the debate was during the discussion on Medicare. Romney’s vice presidential running mate, Paul Ryan, has advocated for a voucher option for future Medicare recipients. Obama and his supporters do not support this idea. A good number of students displayed distaste for Romney’s statements on Medicare.
Some of the more Obama-leaning students showed support when Obama talked about the importance of education and keeping tuition costs low. This elicited applause throughout the auditorium.
Obama also vowed to hire 100,000 new science and math teachers if re-elected. He believes investments like teaching jobs are key to academic and economic success.
One of Romney’s defining moments was when he was discussing taxes and his plan to reduce the deficit and government spending. Romney claimed that the debt increase is immoral.
After making this statement, Obama made an accusation that Romney’s tax plan would not work because it would cause the Federal Government to lose $5 trillion in revenue. Romney was very displeased at this remark.
“You are entitled to your own home and to your own plane, but not to your own facts,” Romney said.
Another contentious topic was the president’s health care reform law, which has been given the name “Obamacare.”
Romney gave his opinion, which is consistent with most of the Republican Party, that the government needs to repeal and replace Obamacare. While protecting patients with pre-existing conditions and young people is important to Romney, he said the law is a violation of states’ rights.
Obama defended the law and said the cost of health care will decrease as the law is being implemented. Without the law, Obama said the cost of health care and the number of people without insurance would increase.
It was clear by the end of the debate, neither candidate had a chance to share all of their thoughts; however, there will be two more debates in coming weeks that will address issues related to foreign policy and other matters.
Shortly after the debate, CNN released a poll that stated Romney was the winner of the debate, 65 percent to 25 percent.
Regardless of the various political opinions of the debate, Tyma was very pleased at the amount of student participation with the Twitter feed.
“Social media has really shifted the way politics occurs, the way politics happens,” Tyma said. “I think you’re seeing what politics has become.”