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Younger US Voters Weigh In on Vice Presidential Debate

  • Kane Farabaugh

Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, hosted the debates between Vice Presidential candidates Governor Sarah Palin and Senator Joe Biden. It is the only time the candidates will meet to debate before the November 4 elections. As VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports from St. Louis, much of the focus was on Governor Palin's performance, particularly among younger voters who are trying to make a decision about who they will vote for.

In a rare, warm October afternoon, students on the campus of Washington University of St. Louis compete in a friendly game of croquet.

Their loosely structured competition plays out just meters away from the site of one of the most talked-about Vice Presidential debates in U.S. history.

While none of these students managed to get a ticket to the event between Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and Delaware Senator Joe Biden, the excitement of the occasion is not lost on Chris Riha.

"In my opinion this is now the most exciting debate of the four debates that are happening. So everyone I talked to is really energized by this," Riha said.

Riha is happy to keep playing his game and does not mind not having a ticket. He has already decided who he is voting for in November, something his croquet partner, Liz Kramer, says is typical among the students on this campus.

"It's going to be less to sway people who haven't decided but more to ground people that already have," said Kramer.

Illinois Senator Barack Obama typically does well on college campuses, where his message of change and his youthful demeanor attract younger voters.

But there is a different narrative unfolding across town, on the campus of St. Louis University, where supporters of Governor Palin gathered for a debate party and rally at the school's arena.

Emma Lutz-McKenna managed to get tickets to this event through an environmental advocacy group. At the time the debate started, she considered herself an independent voter.

"Every time I feel like I have my ideas as to which candidate I'd like to back something else comes up or the other one says something I am very excited about or very excited against, and so it's been very much the roller coaster," according to Lutz-McKenna

The roller coaster continued as Palin supporters cheered their candidate, and jeered Senator Biden.

It was perhaps a difficult environment to make an objective decision, with the mood and momentum here clearly in Governor Palin's favor.

The main event of the evening was an appearance by Palin after the debate. As she made a dramatic entrance on John McCain's Straight Talk Express campaign bus, the excitement of the crowd had reached a fever pitch.

Governor Palin addressed the crowd and thanked her supporters, mostly staying on track with familiar talking points.

"You know that there is only one man who has ever really fought for you and that man has courage and he has the conviction, he has the skill to go on fighting for you and that man is John McCain," Palin said.

As the crowd swarmed Governor Palin for autographs and pictures following her speech, Emma Lutz-Mckenna was making her way out of the arena, and had made her decision. In the end, the attitude of the crowd she watched the debate with was a major turn-off.

"If we were to think of this debate as a chess match, then hands down Palin won, that's all there is to it. But what she was saying, and because of the crowd I was listening to, I'm emphatically an Obama supporter as of now," Lutz-McKenna said.

She admits she could still change her mind. The candidates have enough time to do or say something that could keep Lutz-McKenna's election decision roller coaster speeding along until the November 4 election.
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