NEW YORK — Although young voters are drawing much of the attention in this year's Democratic and Republican presidential primaries, they seem to be just as undecided as the rest of the country heading into Super Tuesday.
A gaggle of energetic supporters for Democratic candidates Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and Republican hopeful Congressman Ron Paul rallied outside the Times Square studio during MTV/MySpace's "Closing Arguments: A Presidential Super Dialogue." (Sorry, not so much love for former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee outside.)
But inside, students and recent grads weren't so sure who they were voting for come Tuesday, when both political parties will hold primaries and caucuses in 23 states nationwide.
Jamie Niskanen-Singer, 20, an English and philosophy major from New Jersey's Rutgers University, said before the forum that he just wanted straightforward answers. "The truth," the young Democrat said when asked what he'd like to hear from the presidential hopefuls. "And for candidates to actually get to the point in trying to answer the questions and not sugarcoat their responses."
He said he was leaning toward Senator Obama, but liked Senator Clinton too.
Andrew Ngo, 21, a political-science and international-studies major form City College in New York, was torn between the two Democratic senators. Ngo said he was most interested in asking all the candidates their stance on foreign relations. The self-described Democrat was only able to directly ask a question of Paul, who gave a "nice answer," according to Ngo, in spite of his differing views. Throughout the night, Ngo said, he was swayed more toward Obama, but admitted, "I still have a lot to think about before Tuesday."
On the Republican side of things, a few students hoped former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Senator John McCain were present (Romney declined, while traveling issues prevented McCain from participating), but most were impressed with Paul and Huckabee, nonetheless.
Minnh Do, 27, a University of Oregon grad, said Paul was impressive and seemed "truthful."
David Laska, 20, a New York University political-science major and one of the few Republicans in the audience, described Paul as one of the night's big winners. Although Laska is siding with McCain, he said as an ardent GOP supporter, he was surprised that he wasn't aware of Paul's views until now. "I didn't know there was anyone in the race that thought the way he did, and I follow the race closely," Laska said. "But it may be too little, too late for him."
On the flip side of things, while Obama and Paul impressed, a number of students expressed dismay over Clinton.
Hai Ninh, 28, another grad from the University of Oregon and a "very passionate Obama supporter," said Clinton seemed more evasive than any other candidate. "There was a question about why it's so difficult [for her] to admit her vote for the war in Iraq was a mistake," Ninh explained. "It was very longwinded and, in my mind, a political answer. It seemed like she switched gears or switched topics and didn't really address the issue of calling it a mistake, and I thought that was very evasive."
Others agreed that Clinton didn't make clear her answers regarding her handling of the war — especially when compared to Obama. "Barack makes more of an emphasis on diplomacy," Andres Torres, a recent NYU grad, said. "Hillary speaks of diplomacy, and I feel like that's part of her base, but at the same time says things like, 'My job is to protect the United States at whatever costs.' And it kind of scares me what those costs are, because we're a very powerful country and I don't know what those costs mean."
Then, there was Stephanie Baker, a sophomore at NYU and Obama fan, who had strong feelings about Clinton's plug of her town-hall show on Monday.
"The shameless plug for her show, I thought it was unfair," Baker said. "This is to answer questions, not pitch your television things coming up. Not cool."
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