UMass Lowell Students Weigh in on the Democratic Senate Debate

Posted by erik devaney

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Following most political debates, the pundits and politicians are the ones who get to point fingers and pick favorites. But considering that the recent Democratic senate debate was hosted by UMass Lowell, and the questions were – in large part – formulated by UMass Lowell students, New England Post sought out the student perspective.

For those who missed it, the debate featured all six Democratic senate candidates: law professor Elizabeth Warren, City Year co-founder Alan Khazei, Global Reporting Initiative co-founder Bob Massie, state Rep. Tom Conroy, immigration attorney Marisa DeFranco, and engineer/activist Herb Robinson. Questions for the candidates came from three primary sources: a four-student panel, a university focus group and Twitter (hashtag: #UMLdebate).

Buzz for the debate started early at the UMass Lowell campus. As student and debate attendee, Michael Dinardi, told New England Post, “I was on North Campus most of the day, so I didn’t see the action on South Campus until I arrived for the debate around 6PM. There was a lot of buzz outside - people holding signs, singing, and cheering for their respective candidates.”

“Anytime you have an event of this size and magnitude there will always be buzz among the students,” said student panelist, Scott Conway. “While preparing for the debate there were photo sessions and video taken on campus, which will always get students talking… I know the four of us on the panel and the twenty plus students in the focus group were more than excited for the debate and were extremely enthused about the great opportunity to be involved.”

For some UMass Lowell students, there was but one winner of the debate: Elizabeth Warren. As Dinardi commented, “It was clearly ‘The Elizabeth Warren Show.’” Student panelist, Eunice Delice, told New England Post, “Elizabeth Warren won last night’s debate. She was able to use humor effectively and execute clear and concise answers. She seemed very comfortable even though she was probably just as nervous as anyone.”

Two student members of the UMass Lowell focus group, Megan Mandel and Robert Gignac, also declared Warren the winner “In my opinion, Elizabeth Warren won. She was concrete, direct and approachable in her responses,” said Mandel. “I would have to give the debate to Elizabeth Warren,” commented Gignac. “I had never heard her speak before and was very impressed by her responses and overall way she handled herself.”

But not all UMass Lowell students are singing Warren’s praises. As student panelist, Michael Hubbard, told New England Post, “Elizabeth Warren had some great sound bites, specifically the comment on paying our troops the same as contractors in a war zone, but I expected her to take more of a lead.”

Conway took the criticism a step further: “After the debate I was talking with many of my fellow students and debate watchers in the room and many came to the same conclusion I did, that Dr. Warren is too scripted and rehearsed. The media and Obama administration might think this election is over and Dr. Warren has been awarded the trophy, but I think there is a long road ahead before this primary is decided.”

One candidate who might be able to merge on to that road is Marisa DeFranco, who clearly impressed UMass Lowell students with her impassioned debate performance. “If we are basing our decision on the person who was most prepared with facts, Marisa DeFranco had the most facts out of everyone and gave great answers,” said Delice. “I was very impressed with Marisa DeFranco’s passion,” commented Hubbard.

Other candidates who stood out to the students included Alan Khazei, who Gignac cited as having the best economic/job-creation plan; and Tom Conroy, whose answers – according to Conway – “came from his heart and not talking points or scripts written by high-dollar consultants.”

While UMass Lowell students are somewhat divided on the issue of who performed best in the debate, there is a higher level of unanimity when it comes to who performed the worst. Dinardi, Delice, Gignac, Mandel and Hubbard all labeled Herb Robinson as the weakest link, calling him “unprepared,” “anxious,” and – as Mandel commented – “not well-rounded enough to be an adequate candidate.”

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Posted by erik devaney on Oct 6 2011. Filed under Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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