Students lead debate on presidential candidates, stances on key issues

By Katie Jo Cox

About 40 people debated hot topics in the presidential race, including healthcare, Social Security and the Iraq War, last night at a panel discussion in the Student Center, and most agreed that the Democrats have a leg up in the race right now.

“The Republicans are going to have a bloodbath,” said Thomas Roberts, one of the three panelists and president of UK College Republicans.

Four Republican candidates have a good shot at winning, he said, but none of them is really taking the lead.

“The Republicans aren’t in a good position right now,” said Roberts, a political science and economics senior. “We’re not excited about any of our candidates.”

The forum, organized by Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., began with a bit of insight into how the path leading up to a presidential election works.

“What we basically want to do is educate students on the election process and how the primaries work, as well as offer insight into the issues that each candidate is trying to offer,” said Brittany Ingram, a communication junior and member of Delta Sigma Theta.

Both political parties have similar processes to select their candidate, which is done through caucuses and primaries held throughout the first several months of the year and leading up to nominating conventions in August and September. Kentucky holds one of the last primaries, which will be on May 20.

No matter where this state has stood in the past, all three of the panelists agreed that Kentucky could make a difference in this year’s election.

The Democrats are holding strong candidates and the Republicans are split between their own, said Richard Becker, a panelist and co-chair for the College Democrats of Kentucky. Even the smallest vote could make a difference in who lands the nomination, he said.

“One of the worst things that happened to our politics here in Kentucky is that it became too much like the horse races,” said Becker, a political science and history junior. “I think we’re in the place where we’re trying to pick our nominees and right now it’s just about policy and nit-picking.”

For students who want to know more about the candidates, Roberts suggested doing research beyond just watching the presidential debates, because the arguments may take away from the candidates’ stances on issues.

He encouraged students to go to the candidates’ Web sites, which have detailed information on where they stand. Becker and the other panelist, John Ghaelian, historian for UK College Democrats, agreed, saying it was worth doing research for this election.

“In 2008 we have the unique ability to vote for candidates who stand for something,” said Ghaelian, a history junior.