EDITORIAL Debate ripple effect

We have already had several editorials on the presidential debate, but we continue to feel compelled to mention the positive impact the debate has had on UM students. Hosting the first presidential debate has enhanced our political mind frame in this all-important election year.

This Tuesday night, students planned their evenings around watching the vice-presidential debate. It was normal to see students’ away message online saying “call me later – watching the vice-presidential debate.” The vice-presidential debate. The usually ignored sibling of the presidential debate. We were eagerly looking forward to a political happening and not to, say, the baseball playoffs that started the same day. Until last week, many students weren’t even aware that a vice-presidential debate was to be held, and now, we’re actually tuning in.

Behold the winds of change.

Perhaps even more exciting is that the presidential race seems to get tighter with each debate. The Kerry campaign gained momentum after last week’s presidential debate at UM, a momentum that was carried through the vice-presidential debate, since Sen. John Edwards did a good job debating. Furthermore, the Bush campaign has now also gathered strength with Vice President Dick Cheney’s forceful performance Tuesday night. In effect, the general consensus on the vice-presidential debate was, as of press time, that it was a draw, since both candidates performed well. This keeps the presidential race tense, close and, inevitably, exciting.

The vice-presidential debate was appealing and effective for several reasons. Because the vice-presidential candidates are under relatively less pressure than the presidential candidates, they had more leeway to speak freely – and, of course, entertain us by throwing mud and fire. In addition, the format of the debate was somewhat less structured than that of the presidential debate, and having the candidates sitting down side by side made the questions more personal and the answers more aggressive than in last week’s presidential debate.

The presidential candidates need to make the most of the two debates they have left, because the race is so close and because now they have our attention. And, despite the pessimists that think tonight’s second presidential debate-that will be held in town hall format-will not be watched because it’s a Friday night, we sincerely hope they’re wrong.

After all, who says we can’t tune in to politics before dressing up to go to South Beach?