HEMPSTEAD, New York — It's an understatement to say that Tuesday (October 16) night's second presidential debate could be one of the most important moments in this long presidential race.
With a bump in the polls that has pulled him nearly even with President Obama in a number of crucial swing states, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is hoping for a second straight strong performance, while Obama is suddenly in a must-win position with less than three weeks to go in the contest after a lackluster showing in the first showdown with Romney.
MTV News' Power of 12 hit the campus of debate host Hofstra University on Monday and asked a pair of committed supporters to make the best case for their candidate based on the issues that matter the most to young voters. Two first- time voters — Dion Pierre, an 18-year-old political science major from Queens, New York, and Sidney Madden, a 21-year-old journalism major and first-time voter from Milton, Massachusetts — sounded off in what we're calling a "pre-bate." And if their pointed answers are any indication, viewers are in for a spirited conversation when Romney and Obama take questions on domestic and foreign policy issues during their face-off.
(Check back with MTV News after the debate to hear our pre-baters offer their own version of the "spin room" and defend their candidates' performance.)
Pierre: "I'm supporting Mitt Romney because I think Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have a vision to get America back on track. I think they have the vision to get our economy moving again and they have the experience in the private sector to get it done."
Madden: "I believe four years is not enough time to implement a vision of prosperity and I want to see him keep going with the job that he's done."
Pierre: "I support Mitt Romney's health care plan because I don't think the government should be involved in health care ... This isn't the government's role. We can simply pass laws that stop insurance companies from dropping sick kids or denying people coverage because of previous conditions. We shouldn't have this government intervention because it doesn't make things cheaper; it's only raised costs on families."
Madden: "I'm a supporter of Obamacare because I believe the private sector needs to be kept in check when dealing with health care ... Staying on your parent's health care until you're 26 is smart because it allows more prosperity in other social institutions. [Being] worried about your health care as a 22-year old recent grad, when you're going to be paying student loans, you're going to be looking for your first job, first car ... you don't want to be worried about, 'I can't get sick because I won't be able to pay.' "
Madden: "With the cost of living and the cost of education these days in America it's not making us competitive in the world market, but I think Obama is taking the right step in preventing Stafford loans from doubling, whereas Romney would be increasing eligibility requirements for Pell Grants. [She also likes that the president is capping federal student loan repayments at 10 percent.] Say you're not a business major and you don't get a Fortune 500 company job right off the bat, you can still afford to live and afford to pay back your debts."
Pierre: "I went to an urban school for high school and I saw the inequality in education in John Adams Queens [high school] hurt the students there. I like Mitt Romney's plan because he wants to give kids and parents from poor, urban neighborhoods options to be able to go to the school of their choice in a better neighborhood. To be able to have access to a better education because frankly I think that's the civil rights issue of our era."
Pierre: "You should vote for Mitt Romney because Mitt Romney has a vision for the future. Mitt Romney has a plan to cut back on taxes for the middle class and small business owners, our nation's job creators. We need someone who's going to come in, get things done, get the private sector moving again, encourage business, encourage capitalism, encourage the ideals [that will make] our country flourish. Not someone who's going to divide us by social class and where we come from and who has it better and who doesn't have it better. We want all Americans to have it better.
Madden: "I'm voting for Barack Obama and I believe you should to because if you're 18 to 25 and you're thinking about what issues pertain to you, issues of education, issues of health care, issues of women's rights, gay rights, things that matter to our generation, Obama is more in touch with what we need and where we're going.
Which student won the "pre-bate"? Let us know what you think in comments below
Check out all our coverage of Tuesday's presidential debate and stick with MTV's Power of 12 throughout the 2012 election season.