Democrats bring views to MU

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As the attendees of the Democratic Presidential Debate and DebateWatch 2004 filed into the Weasler Auditorium and the Monaghan Ballrooms, the crowd was divided over whom they would support. In an unscientific poll held before the debate started, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) held a narrow lead over Sen. John Edwards (D-S.C.) and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.

By the end of the debate, Edwards had captivated the crowd in the Weasler, easily winning another unscientific poll taken after the debate. Edwards also secured an endorsement from debate sponsor The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

The Weasler was filled to capacity for the simulcast of the debate. However, the promise of "behind the scenes" information during commercial breaks was thwarted by the feed from WTMJ-TV, which put up a graphic instead of showing what happened during commercials.

In the ballrooms, some of the candidates' responses were met with applause. Quotes such as Rep. Dennis Kucinich's "Let them eat war" caused the audience to laugh, as did the Rev. Al Sharpton's "I was born in a deficit."

"The Rev. Al Sharpton put a lot of spark to it," said Acting Mayor Marvin Pratt who attended the debate, which he called a "very positive opportunity for the city of Milwaukee."

State Sen. Gwendolynne Moore, (D-Milwaukee) who was also in attendance, said the debate was "clarifying."

"Even candidates who don't really have the opportunity to win will get traction," Moore said.

Those attending DebateWatch had similar opinions on the proceedings.

Freshman Sarah Kraft said she was excited because the primary would be her first time voting. She said "everybody was well-prepared," but she was impressed with Edwards, calling him "well-spoken" and "personable." She was leaning toward Kerry or Edwards for her vote Tuesday.

Freshman Ben DuMontier called the debate "very informative." He agreed that Edwards was a very good speaker. He was also "turned off" by Dean's going to an earlier point during the student question. DuMontier plans to vote for either Kucinich or Edwards.

Michael Fleet, a professor of political science, agreed that Edwards had done well, but "what (Edwards) said was not particularly insightful on the issues. But Edwards got a bump. If he plays his cards right, he'll do better" in the Tuesday election.

Dean lost many students' respect with one action.

"Dean was very rude on the question from a student," Kraft said. During the debate, Dean had briefly ignored the question asked by a Marquette law student and returned sharply to a question asked of another candidate which he had wanted to answer. The crowd at Weasler promptly booed Dean's action.

Sophomore Mike Sever agreed.

"I had to look at that again — that really didn't go well with me," Sever said.

Sever agreed Edwards had done well, although he was planning to vote for President Bush in November's general election.

"It's not a terrible thing, but it would have been better if he hadn't done it," Fleet said, referring to Dean's action.

After the debate, various experts discussed the results of the debate, based on questions submitted by students.

William Elliott, dean of the College of Communication, said he was enjoying the political process and was happy to see so many students at DebateWatch.

"It's been a long time since I saw 18-, 19-, 20-year-olds so interested in politics," Elliott said.

Andrew Barrett, assistant professor of political science, was asked which candidate was the most likely to defeat Bush.

"When an incumbent president is on the ballot, (the important issue) is how he's doing," not who his opponent is, Barrett said.

He said that the brevity of the primary season hurt Edwards.

There was some levity in the proceedings. Lea Acord, dean of the School of Nursing and a panelist at the debate, was asked if Kerry's use of Botox, which is injected in the skin to remove wrinkles, was a health risk. After the crowd laughed, Acord simply answered, "No."

Acord also announced after DebateWatch that the debate had caused her to change her vote, although she wouldn't say whom she was voting for.

DebateWatch 2004 was sponsored by Marquette Student Government, Pi Sigma Alpha, the Political Science Graduate Student Association and the Office of Student Development.

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