What a difference two weeks makes.After a policy-heavy, some might say boring first debate, presidential candidates President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney met for their second debate last night. And the energy level was cranked way up.
The debate was town-hall style, with questions being asked by voters directly. President Obama looked to recover after a poor showing in the first debate. Romney, meanwhile, sought to solidify his big jump in the polls and make up more ground with undecided voters.
The stakes were high, and the Hofstra campus was buzzing with activity before the debate. Students supporting both candidates carried signs and packed the area around the MSNBC set in front of the student center. They also had questions they thought should be asked during the debate.
If she had the chance to ask a candidate a question, student Jenna Gehring said, "I would ask about women's rights."
Student Ariella Katz had a longer list of topics she wanted addressed.
"I would ask how they are going to fix the debt; how they are planning to get us back on track economically; if we would support Israel on a pre-emptive strike; and if we are going to put red lines on Iran."
When asked what they thought Obama and Romney needed to do to win the debate, they had an opinion on that, too.
"Each candidate needs to appeal to their audience," student Brian Stieglitz said.
"We need people who check their facts and speak the truth," Hannah Cohen added.
But it wasn't all serious. One student, Jay Sia, carried a sign that read "Romney Doesn't Believe in Gravity." He took a lighter view of the evening's events.
"Obama should focus on his skateboarding," Sia said when asked what the President needed to do to win the debate.
Obama didn't skateboard tonight. But he did bring an increased level of intensity.
Obama and Romney both seemed more energized and willing to directly engage their opponent. They answered 11 questions, posed by undecided voters ranging in age from first-time voters to senior citizens. Moderator Candy Crowley from CNN's State of the Union kept the debate moving from question to question.
Obama and Romney found many opportunities to argue — sometimes over each other — about the issues ranging from energy to women's health care to immigration.
A particularly testy argument took place when the candidates discussed the Obama Administration's response to the September attack on the American embassy in Libya.
Romney said Obama wasn't truthful with the American people about what happened. Obama went on the attack and called this claim "offensive."
"The day after the attack, Governor, I stood in the Rose Garden and I told the American people in the world that we are going to find out exactly what happened," Obama said. "That this was an act of terror and I also said that we're going to hunt down those who committed this crime."
At this Romney, look surprised and said Obama was misrepresenting his response to the attack.
"You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack, it was an act of terror. It was not a spontaneous demonstration, is that what you're saying?" Romney asked Obama. "I want to make sure we get that for the record because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror."
A heated argument between the two began, and Crowley was forced to step in and get the debate back on track. At one point all three people on stage were talking over one another.
This type of exchange happened a lot tonight, with both Obama and Romney taking more direct jabs at each other. And compared to the last debate, both candidates brought a lot more passion to the topics discussed.
Reactions from the Dining Hall
My editor and I watched the debate from the student center dining hall. Hundreds packed the hall for a debate watching party.
There was lots of excitement in the room during the debate. Students really showed off school spirit, cheering loudly every time Hofstra was mentioned. They also cheered for both Obama and Romney whenever one of the candidates made a compelling point.
But throughout the debate, viewers in the dining hall applauded, cheered, and hollered whenever the candidates argued with each other and tried to get the upper hand.
After the debate, supporters of both Obama and Romney said the debate strengthened their support.
Obama supporter Kirsten Harris said she thought "Romney had good views, but he didn't expand on how he would go about doing them." Romney supporter Nicholas Efthimiades countered with, "It was possible the power of Romney came out a few points ahead. It was a pretty even match."
Despite any differences of opinion supporters had, all the students agreed that it was important to be part of the night.
"Your vote is your voice and the only way to voice your opinion is to go out and be heard," Harris said.
"As a young person, it is important to get involved becuase they are the next generation of voters, the next generation of ideas," Sia added.
"We are the future of American policy," Ariella Katz said. "It's as simple as that."