Column: McCain, Obama Do Poor Job Of Wooing College-aged Vote At Debates

This story was written by Sean Lutzmann, The BG News

The only thing really momentous about last Tuesday's presidential debate for University students, is that a select group of 12 of them got to appear on ABC News with Charles Gibson to share their thoughts and feelings on the debate with the nation.

From what I saw in the responses from that sample of students, the candidates would have done a lot better in attracting the college-age vote by talking much more on the subject of education, which when you get right down to it, is the root cause of many of this nation's failures and successes.

Of course it was no surprise that Sen. Obama did better than Sen. McCain in a debate primarily focused on the economy. Domestic policy has always been Democratic candidates' strong suit - especially in times of economic stress like we're in now. I thought the two major points Obama brought up, which made him the clear winner of the debate, were his statements on Iraq and his statements on healthcare.

He made a smart move when he first talked about the fact McCain was an ardent supporter of the decision to invade Iraq in 2003, easily the most disastrous foreign policy decision made by the U.S. since Vietnam, which, when looked at in addition to the Arizona Senator's signing about bombing Iran, should raise big questions in voters' minds about McCain's judgment on issues of war and diplomacy.

After eight years of the Bush administration, the country (indeed, most of the world) has grown weary of a trigger-happy White House, and they're probably not looking forward to an extension of those same policies of shoot first, investigate sources of wrong intelligence later.

The other point Obama made about affordable healthcare and how it is a basic human right for all people living in the U.S. definitely hit home with a lot of Americans currently struggling to pay off massive healthcare expenses. He made the case it shouldn't matter what your income is, if you're sick and you need to go to the hospital - you shouldn't have to worry about whether or not you'll be able to pay your medical bills.

This is something the Democratic candidate himself had to cope with in his own family life when his mother (a cancer patient) spent the last several days of her life arguing with her insurance company that didn't want to cover her because they thought her cancer was a pre-existing condition prior to her buying into the plan.

It's sad that the U.S. is the last country in the western industrialized world to have realized this, but at long last when, according to a study done by Harvard researchers, half of all bankruptcies in the U.S. are caused by medical expenses (and of those, over 75 percent had insurance), the country has begun to realize that a massive corporate bureaucracy works no better than a massive government bureaucracy. In some cases it may even be far worse, as much of the corporate bureaucracy in the insurance industry is bent on finding ways to deny customers' coverage.

Obama could have done even better with the working class in this country by mentioning how he and McCain differ on trade policy. I'm a little disappointed the Democratic candidate either was not given the opportunity or did not make the opportunity for himself, to address the fact that as President he would fight harder than pro-NAFTA McCain to renegotiate trade agreements in order to level the playing field with China, Mexico and other nations with lower labor and environmental standards.

You may see this issue come up in the next and last debate between the two candidates. The big question is, will McCain be desperate enough to counter it by mentioning Bill Ayers or Jeremiah Wright?