A crowd of Dickinson College students say Romney came out on top during Wednesday's presidential debate.

The students chose Gov. Romney as the overall winner in a close vote based upon delivery and performance.

David Miltsein, 22 and co-president of the College Republicans, said he believed the governor increased his likability with voters and overcame previous assertions that he was “out of touch” with middle class Americans. “I think Romney did a great job exposing the president’s record,” said Milstein. “He used a lot of good hard facts.”

Milstein, along with his co-president, Alex Egnar, 21, agree with the narrow majority of students who chose Romney as the victor.

“I think both candidates made good points,” said Egnar. “There were some zingers in there, but I think Romney won.”

The students voted individual winners for several categories, as described in a flyer handed out by the event moderator and a political science professor at Dickinson College, Dr. Brandon Lenoir. Lenoir asked the students a series of questions after the debate which included: who spoke in the most plain language, who avoided questions and who focused on issues important to young voters.

The students agreed the candidates scored dead even on almost every question except when it came to young voters, for which Obama won the most points. Romney’s aggressive tone ultimately edged out Obama for the majority vote of who won among the students.

Will Nelligan, 20, saw the debate differently.

“Governor Romney certainly played the expectations game better, but at the end of day, I think Obama won this debate,” said Nelligan, who is an active member of the College Democrats. “I think they were both admirably very restrained and respectful of one another ... but I think Obama did an excellent job of rising above the fray, where Romney was a little too aggressive and insistent at times, Obama was very good at modulating his emotions and retaining his likability with voters.”

More than 100 students packed The Depot at Dickinson College in Carlisle to watch the debates and take part in the discussion afterwards, based on lessons from Lenoir’s campaign strategy class.

“Unlike the way the network news covers the debates by bringing in hired guns from each side of the aisle to basically frame how you should look at the debate and cue you in on specific issues, with this event I’m taking an academic approach and getting the students to look and pay attention to the nuts and bolts of delivery, body language, who actually answers the questions, those types of things,” said Lenoir in the minutes leading up the debate.

Lenoir says he wants his students to approach the debate from more than a partisan viewpoint. He says candidates who stick to the issues and avoid character attacks leave a better impression on voters, despite the claims by mainstream political commentators to the contrary.

“That’s where political science and political punditry part ways,” said Lenoir. “The candidate who focuses on answering the questions and giving some solid answers and focusing on the policies will do a lot better than the candidate constantly trying to throw mud.”

After the debate ended, Lenoir addressed the crowd of students and asked how many had not yet chosen which candidate to support. Only a handful of students identified themselves as “undecided voters.”

Evan Dodson, 22, says the economy is the number issue as one of those undecided voters.

“I think a steady plan and a strong plan for the economy is the most important thing to the people right now,” said Dodson. “I’m looking for a candidate who is strong in his beliefs and strong in the direction he wants to lead the country.”

Siobhan O’Grady, 20, says the president embodies the strength and commitment desired by independent voters like Dodson.

“I want to dedicate my life to making the world a better place and I think that’s what Barack Obama stands for,” said O’Grady.

For his part, Lenoir says he agrees with choice the students made.

“It was clear that Romney came on the attack, President Obama seemed more laid back. He livened up toward the end, but I think Romney came with a game plan and stuck to it,” said Lenoir. “I think from a debate perspective, Romney scored points.”


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