Election Update: Candidates Debate Issues As Election Nears

The Presidential and Vice Presidential Debates are a staple of the Presidential elections.Over the last few weeks, reactions to and spin from the debates have been the center of political attention. Organized by the Commission on Presidential Debates, the Presidential candidates agreed to three Presidential debates and one Vice Presidential debate.These offer the American public the opportunity to see the two candidates interacting and addressing the same topic – as opposed to the sidestepping and propagandizing of campaigns and commercials. The reactions have been particularly interesting as the campaigns fluctuate with the outcomes.Each campaign has used their respective websites (www.georgewbush.com) and www.johnkerry.com) to post up-to-the-minute reactions about the debate and add spin. Following the two Presidential debates and the one Vice Presidential debate, much of the candidates’ political rhetoric has been making light of their opponent’s mistakes. The first debate was a formal discussion of foreign policy and homeland security and centered on Iraq, North Korea, nuclear proliferation and homeland security.It is worth considering the different positions the two candidates held during the debate. President George W. Bush held firm to his feelings that Senator John Kerry was a flip flopper.Both candidates agreed that Iraq must be won and differed on their opinion about the current situation.Bush expressed his opinion that Iraq way on its way to doing well while Senator John Kerry seemed wary of the current situation. Kerry is generally acknowledged to have come out ahead in the debate among voters.His polling numbers increased significantly following the debate.Kerry, as the new candidate, is in the position to challenge the incumbent President on every topic. The second debate was an informal town hall discussion with 140 undecided citizens.The audience was allowed to write a question for each candidate and the moderator selected which questions would be addressed.The topics ranged from Kerry’s “wishy-washiness” to health care and Iraq. Much of the political rhetoric was reiterated, and the candidates gave their promises on taxes, education, Iraq and healthcare.This debate has been considered a small victory for the President.However, after the debate the election was still too close to call with CNN’s polling indicated that 48 percent of likely voters favored Bush, while 49 percent favored Kerry. The Vice Presidential debate reflected the widely different personalities and characteristics of the two candidates and their runningmates. The debate also offered the public a chance to get to know the Vice Presidential candidates, as Vice President Dick Cheney usually acts behind the scene and Senator John Edwards is relatively new on the scene. Cheney has worked in the White House for four different presidents and has served as a congressman for Wyoming.On the other hand, Edwards is a relatively young trial lawyer who is serving his first term as a senator.Cheney made light of this difference in experience while Edwards reflected, “This country can’t take four more years of this type of experience.” The candidates mirrored the Presidential debate rhetoric, often repeating the lines that their Presidential candidate said the previous night.Edwards dared to confront Cheney about his daughter, who is a lesbian, and Bush’s support of a marriage amendment.Cheney did not take the argument but rather tactfully thanked Edwards for thinking of his daughter – a dramatic moment in the debate. The third and final debate covered domestic issues, which are especially important to voters. The candidates addressed the economy, taxes and healthcare as well as Roe vs. Wade and gay marriage. Bush and Kerry disputed one another’s plan to stimulate the economy and to provide healthcare. Kerry also criticized Bush’s plan to save Social Security (thought he offered no alternative option). The majority of the debate consisted of Kerry criticizing Bush’s handling of the economy, while Bush emphasized Kerry’s liberal voting record (Kerry has been ranked among the most liberal senators) and suggested that Kerry’s plan were not feasible. All of the debates contained misstatements and lies on both sides. To see a breakdown on the incorrect “facts,” visit www.factcheck.org. More information on the debates (including transcripts) are available at the Commission on Presidential Debates’ website at www.debates.org.