Karina De La Rosa, 18, sat with about 75 of her fellow Augustana College students Wednesday night in the great hall of Emmy Carlsson Evald Hall on the Rock Island campus watching the first debate between President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney.
De La Rosa, a freshman from Chicago, is studying geology. In the last election, she said, “I was much more active.” This election year, she said her studies preclude most political activities.
While she was happy to watch the debate, she was not sure either of the candidates made many points.
“They’re saying the same thing over and over again,” De La Rosa said of the portion of the debate that centered on taxes and the economy. “It wasn’t very helpful.”
For Eyoel Berhane, 19, of Lombard, Ill., watching the debate was important in two ways — to learn about the candidates and to earn extra credit in one of his classes.
Berhane, a sophomore applied mathematics major, took detailed notes.
“The debate has given me more information on the candidates,” he said. “It is helping me.”
Berhane said he likely would be teaching at some level some day. When the candidates touched on education, he listened to them talk about their visions.
“We still need to evaluate if programs work,” Berhane said. “If they don’t work, we need to find out why and work to improve them.”
Seth Paul, 29, of Rock Island spent nine years in the Army, including a tour of Afghanistan. Now he is a junior business major. He said he didn’t expect specific plans from the candidates, and he wasn’t disappointed.
“There was a lot of politicking,” Paul said. “Each candidate said they have a five-step plan or a 10-step plan, but there was nothing specific.
“They gave numbers, but we don’t know where they got them.”
Paul brought up the John Kennedy-Richard Nixon debate of 1960, the first one to be televised. “Nixon looked haggard, Kennedy looked polished. But those listening to the radio thought Nixon won and those watching TV thought Kennedy won.”
Sarah Deitz, 23, of Rock Island, a freshman majoring in counseling, liked the way Romney presented himself.
“I really enjoyed listening to Romney,” she said. “I hope he’s the next president. Obama is a nice man, too. But Romney is about America and as he said, ‘We’re all Americans.’”
Connie Soltysik, 19, a sophomore political
science major from Mount Prospect, Ill., thought Romney performed better.
“I think Romney did better because he needed it,” Soltysik said.
“He needed a good debate. I feel as though Obama was being fair to him. He didn’t bash on Romney.”
Yuki Serizawa, 20, from Osaka, Japan, and Axel Rollback, 19, from Stockholm, Sweden, have been in the U.S. for only two months. They are finding the election process interesting.
Serizawa, a political science major, said she supports Obama, but “Romney is doing well also in the debate.”
Rollback, who is studying French and art history, said it appeared that Obama and Romney “weren’t really speaking to each other. I don’t know if things would be different without a moderator, if they would be better.”