With a Romney-Ryan campaign sign below the TV screen, those at Warren County Republican Party headquarters watched Monday as the third and final presidential debate between former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama ended.
They enthusiastically applauded as Romney got his final chance to address Americans on the debate stage, saying the country needs strong leadership.
Amber Bruton, 22, a Western Kentucky University senior from Munfordville, said she liked much of what Romney said about topics including Israel, along with Iran's nuclear program, during the debate.
If people listen to the content of what Romney said during the debate, they will realize that having him as president would help the country, she said.
Foreign policy is important to Bruton, though she said many voters won't take it into account when deciding how to vote. "A lot of people don't consider it, and that's part of the problem," Bruton said.
Romney wasn't as vocal with his opinions in this debate as he was in previous ones, though Bruton is still pleased with Romney's overall performance, she said. "I think that it wasn't a strong debate for either one of them like it has been before," Bruton said.
Dalton Workman, 19, a WKU sophomore from Hopkinsville who serves as chairman of the WKU College Republicans, said it was good for Romney to talk about both economic issues as well as foreign policy.
Romney's strongest moments came when he related issues back to his five-point plan for jump-starting the economy, Workman said.
Foreign policy will be more important to voters on Nov. 6 than it would have been a few months ago because of the attack last month on the American consulate in Libya that left the American ambassador and three others dead, Workman said.
The full story behind that attack is still unclear to people, he said.
"They're confused about it, and that may be something that weighs on their minds when they go vote," Workman said.
Jace Lux, director of forensics at WKU, said Obama and Romney were fairly evenly matched in the final debate.
Romney's ability to stay calm and refrain from interrupting Obama worked in his favor, he said. "He never seemed to get rattled," Lux said.
It was a change from the more aggressive performances from both candidates in the town hall-style debate last week. That was a wise choice for Romney, especially when for some people the debates can be their first real exposure to the candidates, Lux said.
"You don't want the impression to just be the aggressor over and over and over again," Lux said.
However, the debate also showed that Romney lacks experience in the field of foreign policy, much as Obama did during his initial run for president in 2008, he said.
"He didn't really seem to disagree with the plans and policies that President Obama discussed," Lux said.
Obama, in comparison, did a good job of demonstrating his knowledge of foreign policy and was not afraid to remind the audience of the experience he's gained in the past four years, he said.
He was, however, prone to interrupting Romney, which didn't serve him well, Lux said.
"It, to me, demonstrates maybe just the slightest crack in composure," he said.
Elizabeth Gribbins, 19, a sophomore from Louisville who serves as president of the WKU College Democrats, said this debate was different from previous ones, with candidates pushing out facts. "It was a little different because I feel they did more of a round-table discussion," Gribbins said.
The debate lacked the heat of previous encounters, she said.
However, she said she doesn't think Romney has a strong foreign policy platform and was ambiguous about his plans.
Foreign policy will be more relevant to this presidential race than in some others simply because of the events of the Arab Spring, though that issue is likely less important than the recession and jobs in the minds of voters, Gribbins said.
She said she wanted to hear more about women's issues and plans for education during the debate.
Romanza Johnson, president of the Democratic Women's Club of Kentucky, said she thought Obama put in a good performance during the debate and topped his previous debate showings.
Having both candidates seated meant that Obama was more at ease during this debate, she said.
"I thought he did a better job each time," Johnson said.
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