Bush vs. Kerry at Northwestern;
Students mull debate
By Stephen Anzaldi
Northwestern students and faculty gathered last week to
watch the first debate between President George Bush and Sen. John Kerry.
The group of approximately
100 watched from the Communications Residential College.
|Students gathered to watch the first presidential
|photo by Stephen Anzaldi
After the 90-minute debate, David Zarefsky, Owen L. Coon Professor of Communication
Studies and a debate expert, led a discussion as viewers critiqued the candidates’ performances
and debated the outcome.
Addressing a question by sophomore Andrew Jacobs on the candidates’ intended
target audiences, Zarefsky responded by weighing three traditional strategies:
energize the existing base; go after the undecideds; or make a first impression
to those tuning in for the first time.
As the debate played out before the assembled crowd, it drew a few partisan responses.
However, some students offered points equally critical of both candidates.
“For two candidates so concerned with the security of this country and
so passionate in their love of this country, they often seem to ignore the very
people who end up at the bottom of the barrel,” said freshman Christina
Senior Emily Levada followed up on Owens’s opinion, saying, “We don’t
talk enough about what’s going on in America in terms of security nearly
as much as we should.”
When Zarefsky polled the crowd to see if anyone had changed their intended votes,
the overwhelming majority said their preferred candidate had won.
“One of the primary effects of these debates is that they reinforce the
convictions that people start out with,” Zarefsky said. “They get
people to feel better about the candidate they support.”