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Political groups respond to presidential debate

Alejandro Alba

Published: Thursday, October 4, 2012

Updated: Friday, May 17, 2013 13:05

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Special to The Prospector

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Karina Rodriguez / The Prospector

Matt Leahy (left), president of the University Democrats watch the presidential debate live at the Union Building East.

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Chairman of the College Republicans Lorenzo Villa speaks to the group at a meeting.

Karina Rodriguez / The Prospector

   The first debate of the campaign season briefly mentioned the issue of higher education, but both the University Democrats and the College Republicans weighed in on which candidate had the better argument.

On Oct. 3 President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney took the stage at the University of Denver in front of moderator Jim Lehrer, host of NewsHour on PBS, and spoke on issues about the economy and the role of government.

“I think Obama has been a strong advocate for students and the Stafford loan, for affordable education,” said Matt Leahy, president of the University Democrats. “Governor Romney won’t talk about his beliefs and as far as I know he’s more than willing to cut student aid if it meant breaks for the rich.”

Lorenzo Villa, chairman of the College Republicans, had a different view.

“Honestly, Obama did go more in depth with his speech, but like Governor Romney said, education is something that we need to be successful as a nation,” he said. “Things won’t get solved right away, but (Romney) has a plan, he didn’t go to deep into the plan, but that’s something that people will just start researching.”

Both the Democrats and Republicans had differing opinions on who won the debate.

“I think Obama performed admirably,” Leahy said. “I think Romney was nervous throughout. What bothered me, and I’m sure most people, was that he had a lot of criticism but he wouldn’t offer his own platform because that would be open to criticism.”

Villa said that both candidates had good arguments, but believed Romney won the debate.

“Overall Governor Romney was able to answer questions directly, not walk away from questions or answers,” he said. “To me he felt more on point at answering the question than President Obama.”

A poll conducted in September by the Pew Research Center, a leading research and data site, found that youth engagement in the elections has sharply decreased since 2008. According to Pew, 65 percent of young adults ages 18-29 put a lot of thought to the election. In 2012 that percentage is now 48, making it a 17 percent decrease.

Both the Democrats and Republicans felt students should become involved in politics.

“Obama wants education for the middle class to help the next generation,” Leahy said.

Villa said he believes students must be informed about politics because they affect daily life.

“If you’re the 50 percent that don’t understand the politics or don’t follow politics, then that’s really going to affect (you) because you’ll be blindsided by it,” Villa said. “I think that this is something that students should be covering, especially if you’re entry-level college, or are in college right now, this is going to affect you.”

Only 63 percent of young adults plan to vote this year, according to Pew, which is a nine percent decrease from the 72 percent who voted in 2008.

“Seventy percent of students between 18-25 need to go out there, need to get informed and vote,” Villa said. “We have a low participation of voting in our generation gap and we need to go out and vote. It doesn’t matter who you vote for as long as you vote.”

Jasmine Aguilera and Alejandro Alba may be reached at prospector@utep.edu.

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