Four years after “Joe the Plumber” rose to prominence during a Hofstra debate, the presidential candidates again descended on the Long Island university for their second matchup ahead of the November election.
A carnival-like atmosphere enveloped the campus prior to the town hall-style debate between President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney with giveaways, chants and marching bands.
Students were generally excited to be part of the process in deciding the country’s next president, though some seemed annoyed by the mayhem.
“It’s great that [Obama and Romney] are here, but the campus feels shut down,” said junior Nathan Glenn regarding the closing of roads and heavy police presence.
Others remained unfazed.
“I’m just grabbing dinner, then heading back to study. Typical Tuesday for me,” said Cory Shelton, a sophomore.
As the debate neared, those who were not among the lucky few that won a lottery allowing them to attend the event made their way to the numerous viewing parties scattered around the campus.
Hundreds packed one such gathering in Netherlands Café, donning red, white and blue hats and brandishing signs and ready to watch the debate on a large projection screen, as this is first presidential election most of the students are able to vote in.
“I feel a responsibility to make an informed choice and not just rely on Fox or MSNBC to make my decision,” said Cole Barker.
With a Yankees playoff game being played simultaneously some students had a different decision to make.
“I guess politics is bigger than baseball,” said Ryan Butler, who was wearing a Yankees sweatshirt at the debate viewing party.
Most students said they wanted to hear the candidates discuss job creation and how they will aid students in debt.
Cheers were interspersed with laughs as the candidates clashed on taxes, immigration, the deficit, energy independence and health care.
The confrontation on Libya drew the loudest reaction of the night, with many saying that exchange gave the decision to Obama.
“Romney wasn’t as commanding as [in the] last debate. Obama made him look foolish on the Libya answer,” said senior Nick Kearney.
Post debate, students poured back out onto the campus, ready to discuss the night.
“Obama was much more animated this time, he was ready to respond to whatever Romney had to say,” said freshman Tracy Reynolds.
“It seems disrespectful for them to interrupt each other, but it definitely makes the debate more interesting,” said junior Brendan Mortell.
The excitement of the past couple of days will fade away as the TV cameras depart and campus life returns to normal.
“It was fun while it lasted, but now I’ve got a paper to write,” said James Cowan.