While Senators McCain and Obama were debating in Nashville Tuesday, many Middle Tennessee State University students were watching them on the big screen, learning what each candidate plans to bring to the table if elected.
A debate viewing party and post-debate discussion was held in the State Farm Room of the Business and Aerospace Building Tuesday night. The American Democracy Project, which sponsored the party, hoped that the event would encourage students to become more involved in the voting process and encourage interest in the debate.
Before the debate, some students had made up their minds on which candidate to support, whereas others were still not entirely sure whom they were voting for.
"I don't think either will win," said Jesse Ray, undeclared freshman.
At the start of the debate, Ray said that he is undecided but leaning toward Obama.
"Obama seems good for people who are pissed off at Bush and younger people, but he's got a lot of media behind him," Ray said. "I don't know what McCain has going for him. He doesn't seem to have a lot of support."
Ray said he had definite expectations for what he wanted to see in the debate.
"I hope they're actually answering the questions, talking about the things they're going to do about the economy, war, education," Ray said. "These aren't really debates anymore. They're all media-fied. It's all practiced, rehearsed. But an actual debate, that'd be great. "
Still, Ray doesn't think that the debate process is completely outdated.
"They still say what they support. It's better than seeing ads or listening to other people say what the candidates talk about," he said. "You get to hear them answer the questions."
Janelle Mitchell, a junior dental hygiene major, declared herself as pro-McCain at the start of the debate.
"I would like to see McCain win because I'm for him," she said. "I definitely will vote for McCain because he's pro-life. That's my main issue that I stick with."
Mitchell thinks that McCain' s experience is one of the things that qualifies him to be president, but she still wanted to know more about him from the debate.
"I really want to hear more of McCain's foreign policy because I didn't hear a lot of that," she said. "Palin didn't talk a lot about that."
Though she is rooting for McCain, Mitchell was happy to see that Obama is in the running.
"I'm excited to see an African-American in this position," she said. "I may not like what he's running for, but I'm glad to see him in the position."
Mitchell also thought it was "awesome" that the debate was so close to MTSU and wished she could have been at Belmont to ask a question herself.
An Obama supporter, sophomore nursing major Shunda Rodgers knew certain subjects she wanted to come up in the debate.
"I'm looking forward to hearing about the middle class, people like us," she said. "I'd like for there to be more money for college students, the war in Iraq, the foreclosures. I want to see some facts and answers."
Rodgers said she believes that debates are important to the democratic process.
"It lets people know what their candidate is bringing to the table," Rodgers said. "Its important to know what they're going to do, what they say they're going to do. Then there's a record of it."
Rodgers watched the first debate and is excited about being able to vote in a presidential election for the first time. She is also glad to see that the debate is coming to Tennessee.
"It feels good to know that they're in Tennessee," she said. "Peope like me, they're here for people like me. Nobody really comes here, and to have them come here is a big deal."
After the debate, Jesse Ray had changed his mind from leaning towards Obama to fully supporting Obama in the election. He felt that Obama had won the debate.
"He got all the responses of everyone in the room," Ray said. "He actually answered the questions. I like Obama more now."
Still, there were things about the debate that Ray disapproved of.
"I think they kind of acted like five-year-olds at some points," he said. "They did talk a whole lot about the war. Obama will have more support because he looked like he knew what he was doing. Obama answered the questions directly, but McCain veered off and answered his own questions."
Janelle Mitchell did not feel that either candidate won the debate but that it was a tie.
"They didn't really talk about issues that I could understand," she said. "Obama wants to socialize healthcare, and I don't agree with that. I like McCain's stance on healthcare better. I did think they did a good job overall answering the questions. It probably got down to foreign relations and policy because that's what Obama voters wanted to hear about."
She did feel several of the issues she wanted to hear about were addressed by the debate.
"The one about healthcare and energy, those were answered, as well as the economy," she said. "Things closer to home were not answered, such as education and things that actually matter to college students."
Mitchell said she did not feel the debate had changed anyone's opinion in the room that night.
"I feel people have already made their decisions and are sticking with it," she said.
Shunda Rogers felt that Obama won the debate but that John McCain performed better than he did at the first presidential debate. Still, she did not like the way McCain conducted himself at Belmont.
"I've always been taught that you don't have to put someone down to make yourself better," she said. "He took cheap shots all throughout the debate. Obama had been talking about change since early on in the race, when he was up against Hillary, and now McCain talks about change. McCain made smart comments and cheap shots - not that Obama didn't - but McCain took cheap shot after cheap shot. That wasn't needed. McCain would say the same thing Obama would say, but he would twist it a little."
Rodgers did feel both candidates addressed some important issues.
"The most important issue was when they got to the war and what's going to happen," she said.
Rodgers said she feels that debates are good for the democratic process.
"Each candidate needs to bring their A-game every time. Obama brought his A-game and McCain slacked."