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Round One: Denver Presidential Debate

President Barack Obama and Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney will engage in their first battle of wits at the Presidential Debate in Denver Wednesday.

The 90-minute debate will begin at 7 p.m. at the University of Denver. Half of the six 15-minute segments will focus on the economy, while the other three will touch on health care, the role of government, and governing, according to a release from debate moderator Jim Lehrer.


“We haven’t ever seen them one-on-one going back and forth with each other responding to answers that I think will really highlight those differences,” said Kelsey Maez, president of the CSU College Democrats.

Approximately six miles of Interstate 25 near the University of Denver, from Santa Fe Drive to Hampden Avenue, will be closed from 5 to 10 p.m. because of the debate, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation.

The debate’s location may be important for Colorado, but it will not have a large effect on the rest of the nation, according to John Straayer, political science professor. Still, holding the debate in Denver highlights Colorado’s swing state status.

“Colorado plays a major role in this election and I don’t think I’d be going too far to say that depending on how Colorado goes in the election is probably how the rest of the election will go,” Maez said.

Obama and Romney have both practiced against stand-in opponents and worked to anticipate possible questions and attacks. Not only do they have to know their information, but they trained themselves to show smiles and humor and suppress any instinct to show disinterest, disrespect or anger, according to John Straayer, political science professor.

“Obama’s challenge will be to stay with his normally cool demeanor and comfortable smile and not drift into lecture-style responses,” Straayer wrote in an email to the Collegian. “Romney’s challenge is a tough one – he needs to show the stature, strength and forcefulness of someone who can take charge and lead, but also show a relaxed and comfortable side to counter the widespread sense that he’s disconnected from ordinary folk.”

Obama experienced a presidential debate in 2008, which may leave Romney at a slight disadvantage. Brad Dick, president of the College Republicans at CSU, hopes Romney will go on the attack and that Obama will have to answer tough questions about the economy.

“Every eye is going to be on them. It’s hard to prepare before actual debate; it’s bigger than what Romney has done,” Dick said. “You practice as much as you can and hope for the best.”

Although important, there isn’t much room to make gains with the debate, according to Straayer and a widespread shift in voter preference is unlikely.


“There is a risk of a factual or stylistic screw-up, though, and both will want to get through this without a stumble,” Straayer said. “It is important for voters to be able to see them together, rather than one at a time at rallies or in attack ads — after all, one will be our president for four years and we deserve to see them in action.”

Both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are interesting figures, according Brandon Hicks, a senior communications major who plans to watch the debate. He is most interested to see what the candidates say about their philosophies.

“I hope to get a better understanding of each party’s stance and get to see a bit more about who the candidates are as people,” Hicks said. “I’m interested to see how they interact with one another on a political stage … I hope they’re interesting and I hope they spark some good conversations.”

Politics Beat Reporter Kate Winkle can be reached at

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