Students pick winner of debate

The sentiments of University of Miami students remained divided yet reinforced over who would be the best commander-in-chief after Thursday night’s first presidential debate held in the University’s Convocation Center.

In the days preceding the debate, some UM students were undecided as to their opinions and hoped that the debate would help them better make up their minds about whom to vote for.

“It will sway my opinion,” Kelly Talamas, junior, said. “I’m going to try to go in with as open a mind as possible – I can’t really say at this point which candidate I favor.”

Junior Charlie Ellis was a volunteer firefighter present when the Pentagon was hit on Sept. 11, 2001.

“Although I favor John Kerry, I’m going into the debate open minded,” Ellis said. “Both candidates deserve a fair chance to speak as long as honesty is maintained.”

Many students had already decided which candidate would receive their vote long before the debate. Despite the fact that they didn’t feel that the debate would sway their opinions at all, most still intended on watching it on TV and around campus.

“I do not expect the debate to sway my opinion. I am voting for George Bush because I feel his aggressiveness in protecting our country is what we really need right now,” Courtney Leffingwell, sophomore, said. “John Kerry is so indecisive and no one really knows what he stands for.”

Did the debate affect these students’ opinions? Who in fact “won” this first and very important debate?

Talamas, like many other students, felt Kerry emerged victorious.

“I thought Kerry was a very eloquent speaker, Talamas said. “Bush stuttered a lot. You could tell Kerry had a plan – he didn’t seem intimidated by any of the questions.”

“Kerry dominated in factual presentation and eloquence,” Ellis said. “Bush skirted a lot of questions – I don’t think he was prepared. Kerry also brought up issues not many people were aware of such as cutting funding for police and firefighters. What angered me, however, was the fact that Bush confused Saddam Hussein with Osama bin Laden and said ‘September 10’ at one point instead of ‘September 11.'”

“I think Kerry was the better speaker at the debate because he spoke more clearly and with greater ease,” Leffingwell said. “Debating is not Bush’s strong point – it’s a weakness, but his ability to debate is not indicative of his ability to lead his country. People need to get over the fact that he says ‘um’ and stumbles over his words, and focus on how safe they want to feel in their own country.”

The students agreed on one point, however – that this debate was very close.

“People who were already decided will probably stand their ground,” Talamas said. “But those undecided may sway towards Kerry because overall he presented himself better.”

Teressa Dalpe can be contacted at