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O'Donnell-Coons Debate: Students Say No One Won

O'Donnell, Coons Square Off on Health Care

Students at the University of Delaware lined up for hours to nab a seat at last night's highly anticipated debate between Republican Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell and Democrat Chris Coons. But after it was over, most of the students we spoke to said neither candidate did themselves any favors.

"I didn't think either of the candidates acted very maturely," said senior Eric McGinnis.

O'Donnell, pressured to make up a 19-point gap in the polls, was on the attack from the start - slamming Coons on everything from raising taxes in the county he runs to his personal wealth. She even tried to accuse him of being a closet Marxist, warning that it "should send chills up the spine of every Delaware voter."

But what was more mystifying was why Coons, who is sitting on a comfortable lead, felt the need to repeatedly put down O'Donnell. More than once, he claimed that he could not understand what she was talking about, accusing her at one point of "a fascinating question that really made no sense." At another juncture, he sharply chastised her for a long answer, saying "Ms. O'Donnell, we're going to try to have a conversation here this evening, rather than just a diatribe if we possibly could."

More CBS News Coverage of the O'Donnell-Coons Race

"I was kind of left feeling a bit disappointed in both sides and I wasn't quite expecting that," senior Katherine Anderson told me. "I was also left feeling that the whole kind of partisan divide that we have won't be resolved by either one of them."

There were signs that the intense national scrutiny this race has received is taking its toll on both candidates. Coons complained that O'Donnell and her supporters in the right wing media have peddled outright lies about him and his record. O'Donnell claimed some of her supporters were being harassed, and avoided answering sensitive questions like whether she believes in evolution.

"She wouldn't give any personal opinions, and frankly that matters," complained senior Jackie Denbow. "At least on the Bill Maher show she was speaking her mind."

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Nancy Cordes
Nancy Cordes CBS

Nancy Cordes is CBS News' Congressional Correspondent based in Washington. You can read more of her posts in Hotsheet here.
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