Students travel to ASU for prez clash

By Natasha Bhuyan
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, October 14, 2004

TEMPE - While Sen. John Kerry and President George Bush traded barbs at last night's presidential debate at ASU in the Gammage Auditorium, 74 UA students watched with thousands of others at Wells Fargo Area, just minutes from the debate.

The UA students joined a crowd of 10,000 spectators to watch the final presidential debate at an Arizona State University-sponsored debate-viewing party intended to increase political participation among young voters. Most attendees were ASU students.

Sara Birnbaum, executive vice president of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona, said students were bussed to Tempe in order to continue ASUA's theme of civic engagement through voter involvement and education.

"We want student voters to come out in full force," Birnbaum said.

ASUA Sen. Pita Salido, who organized the trip, said last night's debate was significant, as it was the last debate of the election race and Arizona is a swing state.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the debate and be so close," Sydney Lai, a communications junior.

The debate-viewing party, which cost ASU's student government $10,000 to host, which was also supported by MTV's Rock the Vote campaign, included performances before the debate by comedian Ryan McKee, the Sun Devil Marching Band and ASU's comedy troupe Barren Mind Improv.

The comedy troupe poked fun at the candidates, saying Bush's favorite computer key is "Ctrl," while Kerry's is "Shift."

After the debate, audience members were asked to show which candidate they thought won by clapping and cheering. Most clapped for Kerry, determining him the winner.

Silas Montgomery, a Judaic studies senior and Bush supporter, said the debate topics applied to student concerns and both candidates made good points.But Andrew Record, a political science junior, said that while Bush said he wants to raise the standards of education, the president does not support his ideas with sufficient funding.

"The educational system is continuing to deteriorate," Record said.

Cristina Rodriguez, a liberal arts senior, said Bush's claims regarding financial aid were not accurate, as she is a Federal Pell Grant recipient and has personally felt the impact of increased tuition coupled with decreased financial funds.

"Bush is going off what he hears, not what he knows," Rodriguez said.

But Devon Nye, a pre-nursing freshman, said she supports Bush's educational reforms because there has been an increase in the number of educational programs.

The candidates also disagreed on social issues such as affirmative action, gay marriage and abortion, but Montgomery said he was disappointed Bush did not vocally take stronger positions on the issues.

Rossil Olmedo, a political science sophomore, said she was glad the immigration topic was brought up because it is important to Arizonans and was ignored during the last two debates.

"We need a reform right away ... Bush hasn't helped," Olmedo said.

After the debate, previously undecided voter Nici Eaton, an undeclared freshman, said the debate solidified her vote for Kerry, who many students believed to be the clear winner.

But Amber Harryman, a classics junior, said although Bush was not the best public speaker, he is the more "real" of the two candidates.

"The president speaks from his heart," Harryman said.

Dori Miletich, a psychology senior, said the candidates should have been more specific regarding topics.

Ashley Meyer, a communications freshman, said the debate did not sway her vote and the candidates both presented good points.