October 18, 2012

Hofstra Players Experience Presidential Debate In-Person

by Clare Lochary | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Hofstra lacrosse players (l-to-r) Taylor Albright, Torin Varn and Jacob Rooney were three of 300 Hofstra students picked from a lottery to attend Tuesday night's presidential debate live on the Long Island campus.
© Hofstra

There were 1,000 people in the audience at Tuesday night's presidential debate between President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney at Hofstra University. Three of them were Pride lacrosse players.

More than 6,500 Hofstra students entered a ticket lottery to watch the candidates in their second of three debates before the Nov. 6 election, but just 300 were chosen to attend the town hall event. Junior Torin Varn and freshman Jacob Rooney from the men's team and senior Taylor Albright from the women's team watched the two candidates go toe-to-toe in Hempstead, N.Y.

The three players have a few things in common: they are all attackers, they are all first-time voters, and all three are undecided. They spoke with Lacrosse Magazine about their expectations for the debate and the experience of seeing it person.

Tell us about yourself – what you're studying and where you'll be voting.

Torin Varn: I'm from Ithaca, New York. I'm a history major. I was always a history buff. I really like American history. It interests me more than anything.

Jacob Rooney: I'm from Orlando, Florida. I'll be voting by absentee ballot. I'm an undecided business major, either management or finance.

Taylor Albright: I'm from New Jersey. I'm majoring in public relations, and we talk a lot about the campaigns. I'm only 21 years old, so I don't have the most developed political views so far – I'm still under my parents' views. But the PR aspect, I like taking what I see in my classes and see them in the debate – how you have to prepare the candidates, and how they speak.

Why were you interested in attending the debate?

TV: I saw it as a good opportunity. I saw it on the Hofstra website. I figured why not? Basically I hadn't been persuaded to vote either way and I was hoping to watch the debate in person. It will help me make my decision a little more.

JR: I've always been into politics, and I was on the debate team in high school. It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I didn't want to pass up. Generally, I have more conservative beliefs but I've been trying to look at everything and not have a bias. So that's what I planned on doing [at the debate] and throughout the rest of the campaign.

TA: It's really exciting to have the debate here at Hofstra. I missed the 2008 debate [between then-presidential candidates Obama and Sen. John McCain] by a year. It really feels like a moment in history. I can say I've been to a presidential debate and it's just my first year voting! All in all, it's really exciting.

What campaign issues are most important to you?

JR: There's a couple. One thing I pay attention to, and I wrote about, is Romney and how's he's going to get us out of debt and cut federal spending, and Obamacare and what they're going to do with that. For graduating college students, half of them are unemployed right now, and that's worrying because I'm in college. I want to know who'll spark jobs in America.

TA: I'd really want to know when the troops are coming home, and when we're pulling out over there. I have close friends and family over there, and that's something I'd want to know – when we're pulling out overseas. But I know that's not what they were talking about in this debate. I'm also really interested in the unemployment rate. I'm going to graduate in May. I know there are a lot of unemployed grads, and even grads with master's degrees. It's something that applies to me.

Do you feel like the candidates touched upon those issues sufficiently?

Hofstra senior attacker Taylor Albright's ticket to Tuesday's debate.
© Twitter

TV: I thought the first question, which mentioned students, I could relate to that. They both had decent answers, but avoided some questions.

JR: I liked Jeremy Epstein, the college student who asked the first question. I thought Romney gave a good answer with the five-point plan and wanting to changed the culture of education. But that went down the drain, because they were bickering right after that. Romney says he knows what it takes to fix the economy, but I never really thought he stated how, or showed us a plan to get there.

TA: All Mitt Romney could do was say, "I'm going to do this for you" and "I'm going to do this for you." It's nice to hear, but how much can you trust him? And Obama says, "I can do this for you?", but how much has he done in four years?

What could you see in the audience that we couldn't see on TV?

TV: I had a great time. It was really cool to feel the energy in the room, and cool to hear the crowd's reaction to what they said. Romney and Obama were really going at it.

JR: I thought they were going to start swinging at each other. The coolest part, to me, was that you always see two figures on TV in a debate, and they almost seem inhuman, and in a way like superheros. To see them in person, on a more personal level, it was really cool.

TA: We were there really, really early, so we got to go in and take a few pictures. It was crazy to see the Mack Center, where our basketball team plays, set up as a town hall. The president of Hofstra spoke, which was nice. Then they came out and told us the rules, what we were and weren't allowed to say and do. They told us when everything was happening – exactly at 9 o'clock, the news broadcast started, and exactly 90 seconds afterwards, [moderator] Candy [Crowley] would start her speech. That was cool.

JR: All the people got so quiet you could have heard a pin drop in there. And then they started broadcasting. It was really neat. And I didn't know if you were in the audience at home that you'd know there were so many people in the debate hall. There were thousands of people there. On TV you think it's the two candidates and a small group [the 82 undecided voters shown on screen].

TA: I think the moderator did a really good job. It's hard to just cut off the President of the United States, or a governor. And this debate was really controversial. The tension in the room was tight. I felt like it could cut through it. It definitely felt awkward at some points when they cut each other off. Beforehand, they both came out and shook each other's hands. It was like when captains go out for game day and it's all good – and then they start bashing each other. And then at the end, you have to shake hands again.

What did you think of the town hall format?

JR: It definitely lent itself to being entertaining. It gave the candidates a ton of freedom. They got up, and walked at each other, got extremely close. It was very interesting and entertaining. But I prefer a more formal format like in Denver. It reduces bickering and bantering.

TA: I thought it was very interesting. It was really cool for those people who got to ask the questions. And I thought all the questions were very good questions. I think it was a good way to get the conversation going. It allowed us to see that the candidates could think on their toes, because they didn't know the questions beforehand. I definitely liked that.

Beforehand, they both came out and shook each other's hands. It was like when captains go out for game day and it's all good – and then they start bashing each other. And then at the end, you have to shake hands again.

In your opinion, who 'won' the debate?

TV: I don't know if I'd pick a winner. Obama did a slightly better job, but I think there was no clear winner.

JR: For the most part, I do think Obama won by a slight margin but I thought there was a lot of dodging the questions. There was a lot of bickering. It didn't really sway me. You could really tell they didn't like each other at all, and they were not afraid to show it.

TA: I really don't know. After the Denver debate, it was Mitt Romney for sure. You'd think he'd come in and take a step off that, and come out on top. But he just kept interrupting so much. But I wouldn't say Obama won either.

Did either candidate win your vote?

TV: Absolutely not, and I was hoping they would. I'm still not sure who to vote for. I guess I'm banking on the Monday debate.

JR: I still have more generally conservative beliefs, and I didn't really sway my decision that much based on the debate. I thought there was a couple times when Obama dodged a couple questions, or redirect the audience's questions by cracking a joke.

TA: I'm really confused now on who I want to vote for. I was undecided before, and I'm still not sure now. Mitt Romney took the approach to be very aggressive, and he cut the president off a lot, and I thought that came off a little wrong. I haven't really decided yet.

Super important question: if either candidate played lacrosse, which position would he play?

TV: Obama's pretty athletic. He plays basketball, so I think he'd make a good midfielder. Defense for Romney.

JR: They're both pretty aggressive, so I'd say defense for both of them. Maybe d-middie for Romney.

TA: I think Obama would be an attacker. And I think Mitt Romney would be a defender.

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