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Presidential Debate Used As Platform For Advancing Political Goals

Ohio Public Radio

Otterbein University hosted the fourth Democratic Presidential Debate last night. 

15-hundred people were able to watch the event live, many more were outside the venue using the event as a platform for their own agendas. Ohio Public Radio's Andy Chow and Jo Ingles prepared this report.

Student debt was one of the top concerns of college students. Otterbein sophomore Stephen Blauch says it’s not just a problem after graduation.


Some of my actually close friends have had to drop out because financial debt has been too much for them.”


Students also wanted to hear how the candidates were going to take action against climate change. Older attendees, like Columbus resident Nancy Smith, said they wanted to hear how the candidates would deal with issues that affect women and minorities.


I’m looking for someone who can beat Trump. I am looking for a candidate that cares about women’s health issue, about really head on facing this gun issue. I’m looking for someone who cares about health care and people who don’t look like them.”


Electability was key for many of those standing in line. Tara Windle of Columbus said she was looking for a candidate who could reach out to voters who sat out in the 2016 election or cast ballots for President Donald Trump – people like her husband.


He said, ‘I don’t want anyone who gives away everything. I just want someone who is moderately sensible and thinks the way I think.’ That’s a frightening thought sometimes (chuckles)”


People in the line were upbeat and optimistic. That kind of excitement carried over into several demonstrations and canvassing around campus.


NATS: "Would you be interested in signing the petition to get Beto on the ballot."


Amy McMillin and a handful of Beto O'Rourke supporters are walking around Otterbein's campus to rally behind their candidate.


McMillin says the debate creates an opportunity for to meet potential voters.


McMillin: "That's how it all starts, grassroots volunteering. Get out there and knock on doors and meet people."


Supporters for several candidates were spotted around campus, including those stumping for Elizabeth Warren, Tom Steyer, and Andrew Yang.


NATS: "Hey, hey. Ho, ho. Tampon tax has got to go!"


Demonstrators were pushing not only for candidates, but for causes, like this rally against the sales tax on feminine hygiene products.


Anusha Singh, an OSU student with the group PERIOD, says being outside the debate gives them a chance to raise awareness of period poverty and the so-called "Pink Tax" issues that she believes should be on the candidates' radar.


Singh: "There's a lot of young people voicing out about this issue and this effects a lot of people but because of the stigma we don't talk about it."


Also walking around Otterbein's campus is a group of gun owners who held an open carry march with their AR-15s in tow. Among the marchers is Bill Groom, who says the Democratic candidates are on the wrong side of the gun issue.


"I know what they want to do and they want to take our Second Amendment right and if they can do that, then they can do whatever they want," says Groom.

Supporters of President Donald Trump like Bob Kunst wanted to make sure there was a counter response to the Democrats in Westerville. He's standing next to a table with homemade cardboard signs that back Trump.

"The public needs to know that we have a leader that's willing to take the risk and go after the power structure in both parties," says Kunst.

With so many groups on campus and in Westerville voicing their differing opinions, there was a common opinion that they appreciated how the debate created an opportunity for them to exercise their First Amendment rights.


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