ANCHORAGE - For the first time this election season, President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney faced off in a debate Wednesday night.
They debated the economy, job creation, and healthcare.
In Anchorage, some Alaskans got together to view the face-off with like-minded people. Republican politicians met up with everyday Republican citizens at the Coast International Inn.
Presidential debates have historically persuaded voters toward one candidate or another. “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” asked former president Ronald Reagan, when he took on Jimmy Carter for the first time in October 1980 – a refrain being repeated this election cycle.
But how effective are the debates today?
“Body language says a lot when trying to understand what a person is really trying to say,” said Alaska State House candidate Anand Dubey. “Scientists will tell you a large portion of communications is body language. It gives people a better idea of who their leader is going to be.”
And sound bites help stick and sway an audience.
“Change has come to America,” said President Barack Obama in 2008.
How a candidate looks also help. The 1960 Nixon-Kennedy debate was the first televised presidential debate. A sweaty Nixon lost to a more put-together Kennedy.
“I think in this case we have two men that are running for president, that both look presidential. So it’s a toss up,” said Alaska State Senate candidate Bob Bell.
Going into Wednesday night’s debate, polls showed the president and the Republican hopeful within a five-point margin of one another.
“How does a common man figure out who stands for what?” asked Dubey. “I think that’s why these debates are really important. Candidates are poked and prodded. They will hopefully slip up and actually say something that will reflect their true nature.”
“I think there are many issues that are that are specific to women,” said mother of two and Republican State House candidate Mia Costello. “And as a mother, I think we raise our children and send out kids to school and hope that they get jobs when they graduate – those are the issues that are on my mind. So I want my children to be able to work and live in Alaska when they graduate from high school.”
She added that Romney, as president, will create jobs.
When it was all said and done, a Denver poll showed the first round going to Governor Romney.
Forty-six percent of undecided voters said Romney had a better plan for the economy.
“I think that it’s important for all of us, but particularly for coming generations,” said Anchorage resident Bruce Schulte. “People in their teens, 20 or 30s now… are going to be the ultimate benefactors in what happens the next four to eight years.”
Twenty-two percent of voters said President Obama made a better case. And while Romney may have statistically won this debate according to one metric, the real winner will be determined on November 6.
KTVA asked the Alaska Democratic Party for comment, but it declined.
On October 11, Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan will be squaring off in their debate, but the president and Romney will be back in the following to weeks to tackle domestic and foreign policy.