About 40 students gathered in the Marvin Center Amphitheatre Thursday evening to watch a debate over the success of Barack Obama's first year in the Oval Office.
Rob Noel, the College Republicans communications director, moderated the debate, which occurred between junior and Republican Moses Weisberg and his sophomore Democrat opponent, Ted Costigan of WRGW's "Unpaved." The College Democrats, citing scheduling issues, did not participate.
The debate covered the financial stimulus package, the economic recession, and healthcare reform.
Costigan said he felt compelled to step up to defend Obama. Though he admitted he is "not a big Obama guy" himself, Costigan said Obama "deserves to be defended given what he's done for the U.S."
Noel attributed the relatively low attendance to the College Democrats' decision not to participate. The small feud was publically visible on the two organizations' Twitter feeds.
The CDs called the debate "illegitimate" on its Twitter page last week and on Thursday the group tweeted, "We'd like to remind our followers that tonight's "debate" between the @GWURepublicans & random Dems is not sanctioned or endorsed by us."
The CRs, meanwhile, shot back "@GWCollegeDems Won't even participate in Thursday's debate w/ the @GWURepublicans on Obama's first year. That says a lot."
With a lack of CDs participation and a CR as a moderator, The Republicans dominated the debate. Weisberg did seem to fumble on occasion, though, as compared with smooth-talking Costigan.
The financial stimulus package, an effort Weisberg called "noble" but poorly executed, had what he described as zero effect on unemployment as most of the money sat undistributed in allocations.
Costigan's rebuttals often fed into the Republicans' own argument, citing things like tax cuts and stimulating small business, two things the Republicans claimed among their own platform principles.
Costigan refuted the idea that there was no effect on unemployment, calling Weisberg's statement "false," and asserted that we just may have had to "spend our way out of this one."
Taking the party's own view of the Democrats as the people's party, Costigan cited Obama's constant fighting on behalf of middle and lower class Americans, the 95 percent of Americans not making several hundred thousand dollars per year.
When asked about Obama's handling of health care reform, Weisberg said, "One word: really bad."
Sophomore Nicole Frascino said she attended the debate feeling somewhat neutral, but she left with a slightly more positive sentiment toward Obama. A student in the School of Public Health and Health Services, Frascino said she has been especially disappointed with the fight over health care reform.
A Republican freshman, Alex Pisciarino, said he found it hard to say who had won. Without the participation of the College Democrats, he said, it was difficult to take the debate seriously.