Central Oregon

Instructor discusses importance of the debates

First debate crucial for both candidates

The importance of the presidential debates

BEND, Ore. - There's a certain group of voters the debate will attract: the undecideds.

Many people NewsChannel 21 talked with out on the streets of Bend Tuesday have already made up their mind.

But there's still a small percentage who haven't.

Political science professors and pundits say the first debate is the most important.

Not only is it an opportunity for the candidates to establish themselves, but if one of the candidates has a solid performance, they can build on that in the other two debates, which would help them attract the key voters.

"I'm certainly planning on watching the debates," said Bob Bookman, a visitor from Florida. "I'm looking forward to hear from both candidates, and I think it's critical that the public pays very careful attention to what they hear."

"The debates are so important," said Bend resident Mya Padilla."I hope that everyone is going to be watching. My 8-year-old's going to be watching."

It seems more eyes than usual will be watching the first of three presidential debates in the fairly tight race between President Obama and Mitt Romney.

"Our country can't relate to what they are doing," said Barbara Bookman, also visiting from Florida. "They are running all over the country with sound bites and things like that, and we really need some in-depth discussion."

But that in-depth discussion may not happen, says political science instructor and Democratic former state legislator Judy Stiegler.

"I wouldn't be looking to have them laying out the whole lock stock and barrel of every plan," Stiegler said.

Stiegler said the candidates will want to impress and show their intelligence and command of the issues.

"The candidates are going to go into this trying to be very careful, but it's also their moment to shine in some degree," Stiegler said.

With neither President Obama nor Gov. Romney having the majority locked, the candidates will have to shine, especially for the 10 to 15 percent of undecided voters.

"I do think there are those who wait for these series of events to sort of make their final assessment of the candidates," Stiegler said.

Stiegler, teaching an Intro to U.S. Government and Politics course at COCC this term, says the debates come at a perfect time.

Stiegler's class is required to watch the vice presidential debates and one of the three presidential debates and write a short paper on them.

"Going over that the first class, people were looking at me like, 'Why do we have to do that?" Stiegler said.

It was the answer to her next question to the class that surprised her -- a "significant number" of students said they had never watched a debate before.

That's something she says shouldn't happen this time, especially in this critical election year.

"That's really one of my goals is to make them understand how much government does play," Stiegler said. "How much of a role it does play in their lives and how relevant these kind of activities are."

Several people NewsChannel 21 talked with say they are just looking for the gaffes when they watch the debates.

While there may be some mistakes this time around, the candidates should be careful.

Stiegler says if the candidates have a giant screw-up during the first debate, it's really difficult to redeem themselves after that.

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