What the debate meant for student voters: Truth should triumph over charisma

Everyone knows President Barack Obama can give a speech. Not even Republicans will dispute his oratory gifts, but as witnessed last Wednesday, Mitt Romney apparently can also speak without sounding like a socially awkward, prepubescent boy. Watching the debate, and looking at analyses of the night, Romney did have more charisma — something I thought I would never say. However, there is one stark difference between Obama’s normal dominant performance and this first-time performance win from Romney: Obama speaks well and tells the truth, while Wednesday night’s Romney conjured up the Shakespeare quote, “More matter, with less art.” He spoke well, yet lacked substance — and truth.

Romney seemed to pull things out of nowhere for his responses to questions. An article from The Daily Caller about the debate is making rounds on the internet discussing Romney’s 27 lies in 38 minutes. I’m sorry, Romney, but really? It’s surprising that people are concluding that Romney won just because he seemed energized and confident. I guess those same people are ignoring the multiple incorrect facts that he spouted.  I don’t think that’s winning anything, and it seems that even though Romney’s performance helped give him a little boost in the polls, college students weren’t really buying into what he was saying regardless of how well he spoke.

A real-time poll developed by the University of Maryland allowed college students across the country to state whether they agreed or disagreed with each candidate throughout the debate. Overall, 60 percent of college students participating in the poll said they still planned on voting for Obama, even with 52 percent saying they thought Romney won the debate.

I think there are two reasons why college students were more likely to agree with Obama despite the lackluster performance. First, college students might have been able to see through the myths Romney was spewing. Society tends to brush off college-aged students, saying they are idealistic and less informed. I argue the opposite. College students are not stupid. We are actually incredibly well-informed when it comes to many issues that affect our country. The millennial generation is more likely not only to want to be involved in political processes and to voice our opinions on the issues, but also to actively engage in them. Obama understands this and used it to his advantage in 2008. Romney doesn’t. His lack of understanding regarding the importance of college-aged voters is apparent. He is out of touch with us, and he doesn’t seem to mind that he is.

The second explanation as to why college students sided with Obama even after the debate is that Romney’s ideas do not jive with the generally more liberal, younger population. Social issues matter to our generation, and although the topics of the debate centered on economic policy, subjects like healthcare and education were discussed. Students like the idea of being on their parents’ health insurance until they’re 26 years old, and they disagree with cutting education programs. College-aged voters also know where the candidates stand on other social issues like marriage for same-sex couples. In sum, the topics discussed at the debate didn’t cover all the issues that people care about.

Obama wasn’t as dynamic as he usually is, which hopefully means that at the next presidential debate, he will be. Now, with the unemployment rate at 7.8 percent — the lowest it’s been since 2008 — he will also have confidence that the economy is improving. College students understand that Obama has their interests at heart. Romney may have come off as more personable, but speaking well doesn’t matter when his policies are not in line with what the American people want or need. At the end of the day, college students aren’t going to vote for Romney just because he spoke well once. Ideally, they would want someone who speaks well and has good policy: Obama.

Email Alex Cooper at wacooper@email.wm.edu.


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