By Rachael Bentley
Torp Theater was the site for CCSU’s own mock presidential debate Tuesday, Oct 16, hosted by CCSU’s own journalism professor, John Dankosky. The debate served as a “pre-game show” for the real debate which was shown live in Torp theater for students and facutly to watch.
The two contenders were Tom Foley, who represented the Romney campaign and Ned Lamont, who represented President Obama’s re-election campaign.
The two parties were brought to CCSU to debate in favor of their parties candidates, serving as unofficial “stand-ins” for Romney and President Obama.
Foley was the former U.S Ambassador to Ireland and was the Republican 2010 gubernatorial candidate in Connecticut. In August 2003 to March 2004, Foley served in Iraq as the Director of Private Sector Development for the Coalition Provisional Authority.
Lamont is currently serving as the Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Philosophy by the Board of Trustees at CCSU. Prior to that in 2010 he was the unsuccessful democratic nomination for Governor of Connecticut and was the Democratic nominee for the United States Senate in 2006.
According to many who attended the event, figuring out who won the mock debate was no easy task.
“It’s hard to say who won,” said Dankosky. “If you were to grade who won in terms of substance and what was said, then I would say Tom Foley won. If you were judging based on who advocated to for their candidate, I’d give the win the Ned.”
The questions used for the debate where a mix of those created by Dankosky and then some created by his own journalism students.
“The main reason I wanted to use student questions was because this is an academic study and I feel that it’s important to get the students involved,” Dankosky explained.
But that wasn’t the only reason he decided to use student questions. Tuesday nights Presidential debate was Town Hall styled, meaning that the questions for the candidates were being asked by undecided American citizens, not a moderator.
This feature was the core reasoning behind Dankosky using student questions.
“What you want is to get them to pause,” Dankosky explained. “If all we do is ask a question so then they say words that have been pre-loaded either by their campaign or in their head, that’s not terribly valuable. We can get a website for that. The idea is that we would actually get someone to think about what the answer is. Not having them think, ‘how should I answer this?’ but more ‘how do I feel about the thing they asked me?’ which is the nature of the job we are supposed to be doing. Let’s get to the heart of what people actually think.”
Some of the questions included issues on foreign affairs, affirmative action and immigration policies.
Overall, the audience felt that Foley debated more like Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney have been during this campaign, using facts to sway on-the-fence voters who might be unhappy with President Obamas’ recent term. Students felt that Lamont, on the other hand, debated much like Obama, using more a sentimental approach, which may be attributed the the fact that Lamont advocated for Obama increasingly during his 2008 campaign.
“Doing something like this is a fun exercise,” Dankosky said. “But it’s also a way to speak to people directly about the candidate they support, which is a worthwhile thing.”