BOCA RATON, Florida — Guns were blazing, bayonets were pulled out of storage and the word “tumult” got more prime time play than it has, well, ever. President Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney went head-to-head in the final presidential debate on Monday, taking on foreign policy and throwing the gloves off in a battle that appeared to give the commander-in-chief the kind of decisive victory that his opponent put up in their first debate three weeks ago.
From a nuclear Iran to the deaths of Americans in Libya, civilians in Syria, the appropriate size of U.S. armed forces and the wind-down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the two men mostly declined to agree to disagree, going after each other with a ferocity you’d expect with two weeks left in the race.
MTV News’ Power of 12 ventured out to the campus of host Lynn University following the debate to catch up with Marine Corps veteran Nathan Dennis, 27, an undecided Lynn student who earlier in the day shared his hopes were for the final showdown.
“It was a really amazing experience … and I feel privileged to have this honor and opportunity,” said a clearly pumped-up Dennis a short time after the skirmish ended. “They did talk about a lot of the important issues … I liked both of their points … they talked about Afghanistan, the returning veterans, they did talk about wellness and prosperity. I think that Obama will actually unfold the prosperity that our nation desires.”
Dennis is a native of the Caribbean island of Saint Martin who moved to the U.S. when he was 15 to live with his immigrant father. He later enlisted in the Marines after he found himself unable to afford college despite working full-time and qualifying for some Pell grants. He took a medical discharge from the armed forces after doctors discovered benign cancer growths and the presence of potentially deadly blood clots in his left leg.
He said he felt good about how both candidates took on the concerns closest to his heart.
“What they’re doing in Afghanistan, where my troops are right now,” the 2nd Tank Battalion veteran said. “As well as what they plan to do over there, training the guys to build the infrastructure and start releasing the guys we don’t need over there.”
Though Dennis went into the debate undecided, he said he came out feeling confident that Obama would do a better job as commander-in-chief keeping his friends and colleagues in the Marines safe. “When he talked about Afghanistan … infrastructure and training the Afghan troops … and [veterans coming] back and returning to the civilian world and trying to help the economy, job creation. He talked about the wellness of the returning veterans. I think that’s very important. They’re going to go through a lot of struggles and they’re going to need as much help as [they can get].”
The aviation management major didn’t hear a whole lot about one of his biggest issues: a possible exemption in the G.I. bill that would allow returning veterans more flexibility in choosing schools outside of their state of residence.
“It was better than a Jay-Z concert!” he enthused about the energy coursing through his body after the exciting verbal joust. Asked about the instant meme that emerged from Obama’s taunt to Romney that we “also have fewer horses and bayonets because the nature of our military’s changed” when challenged about the number of ships in the U.S. Navy, Dennis said he totally got what the president was saying
“It was definitely funny,” he said. “The United States Marine Corps, what are they known for? To do things with less. That’s what makes us so great. We do things with less … if we need to upgrade on something, if we need it … not we want it, we do things the hard way, we do things that people do not want to do. That’s what we’re known for … [we ask for a certain budget] and we make the most of it.”
Did you hear what you wanted to from President Obama and Gov. Romney in Monday night’s debate? Let us know in comments below.
Check out all our coverage of Monday’s final presidential debate and stick with MTV’s Power of 12 throughout the 2012 election season.