Who Won the Debate: Reactions from 6 Swing State Millennials at UNC Chapel Hill


Students remained frustrated across the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with the back-and-forth bickering through this rather "lively debate." Collective sighs filled the room at one of several viewing parties every time Governor Romney interrupted moderator Candy Crowley, as well as during the ridiculous exchanges between President Obama and Governor Romney.

Rachel Donlin '13, an undecided voter, said: "It was difficult for me to focus on the responses to the questions presented in this debate because of the behavior demonstrated by President Obama and Governor Romney. Neither of the candidates behaved in a way that I would consider particularly professional. At one point, both Romney and Obama were getting in each others’ faces while trying to get the last word in. Romney spoke over the moderator multiple times, but Obama smirked behind Romney as he answered the questions asked. I look to the debates to provide clarity. However, this debate has just made my voting decision more complex and has made me aware of the presence of divisive party politics." When asked who came out stronger, "Romney was not as strong as his previous debate and Obama was stronger. But this one just made me mad."

Other students took it head on and easily called President Obama the outright winner tonight.

As an engaged and self-identified "female, middle-class student concerned with progressive policy in the United States," Jasmine Jackson-Irwin '14, recounted that: "Obama's weak and forgettable performance during the first debate was undoubtably reversed after his performance this evening. Governor Romney made sweeping generalizations of the President's previous policy, while simultaneously failing to mention any concrete options laid out in his platform. If anything, Romney significantly weakened his political legitimacy by relying on a abstract description of his "5 Point" plan. Platform talking points aside, I was personally mortified by the horrendously presumptuous statements made by Romney regarding the "ideal" nuclear family (and its relation to poverty), "illegals" being synonymous with Hispanics, and $200,000 qualifying as middle class. I cannot possibly imagine supporting Romney. I support my President, and respect his dedication to recognizing previous successes and failures, and highlighting concrete policy change.

Carey Hanlin '14, saw this debate as a lot more "structured and honest than the last debate. Despite some bickering between the candidates, we saw much more serious, focused performances from both Romney and Obama. It was obvious that if Obama was to maintain any advantage in the election, he had to have more energy, and he pulled through. There have been a number of issues this election that Romney has been inconsistent on, and Obama wasn’t afraid to call him out on it during this debate. Both candidates performed well, but I think in the end it will be a boost for Obama, who articulated to the American public what he has done, what he will do, and what America needs, much better than he has in the past."

Chris Powers '15 said: "Energy seemed to be a touchy subject with no clear consensus. Romney was definitely the more aggressive of the two. Some of the rhetoric on taxes was confusing. Based solely on the debates, I'm not sure if Romney intends to cut taxes for the top 5% or not. I think Obama won some points by asserting his faith in the free market system."

Holly Stephens '14 sees tonight's debate leveling the playing field between the two candidates: "I feel like Obama came out much stronger and more prepared in this debate. I was disgusted with the manner in which both candidates talked over the moderator, and personally if I was a voter in that town hall audience that I would have been appalled by the lack of respect shown for their questions and by the candidates in general. In fact, at some points I was worried the candidates were going to begin fighting. I appreciated the question posed by the college student, but was very disappointed with both answers, especially Romney's because I do not feel like they gave real solutions to this problem that I feel is very relevant to a student in the class of 2014 as well. At this point in the debate and campaigns, I have a hard time distinguishing the truth because I feel that both candidates simply go back and forth claiming that each other said things that the other then refutes it, and I honestly am not sure what the truth is about each candidate's views anymore. Overall, I am quite frustrated with politicians after these debates. However, with that said Obama did much better than he did in the first debate. While each candidate had points in each policy area that I agreed with, I think this will even up the playing field with them once again."

Gabrielle Whitehall '14 sums up the general mood at UNC Chapel Hill on this Tuesday evening: "President Obama is back. In sharp contrast to the first presidential debate, President Obama’s performance was exactly what he needed. With early voting beginning in North Carolina in two days, his performance will surely push people to the polls. With his sharp responses, Obama clearly dominated Romney in tonight’s debate."

Take note that this gives the Obama camp further momentum following First Lady Michelle Obama's visit to Chapel Hill earlier on Tuesday. The United States is down to the final 21 days before election day and it's clear we're in for a tight race.  But in the swing state of North Carolina, Obama pulled through with the win tonight.