Stockton debate

Students attend a viewing of the vice-presidential debate Thursday in the Elizabeth B. Alton Auditorium at Richard Stockton College.

Edward Lea

GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — The thoughtful students at Richard Stockton College who watched the vice presidential debate Thursday were nothing like the candidates who talked over and cut each other off, and the students noticed.

The Stockton Debate Club hosted the debate session Thursday in the Elizabeth B. Alton Auditorium. About 50 students quietly watched from the seats as moderator Martha Raddatz, in Danville, Ky., sharply queried Democratic Vice President Joseph Biden and Republican U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan on various issues.

The students sat quietly, occasionally snickering at the candidates’ remarks or the public’s tweets that ABC broadcast at the bottom of the screen.

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Two life-sized cardboard cutouts of the candidates, door prizes for attendees, stood on the stage floor smiling up at the audience.

In the back row, Katerina Childs, a sophomore from Lacey Township, sat with her friend Danielle Gaffney, a visitor.

Childs didn’t like Biden’s demeanor. “I think it’s very unprofessional that he keeps laughing at this.”

“It’s a bunch of malarkey,” Gaffney said, recycling a line Biden used earlier.

She tuned out when the candidates were discussing Social Security, and she wanted to hear what the candidates had to say about women’s health issues. Then Biden smiled again in reaction to Ryan. “See, that’s what I’m talking about!”

The debate came as Democrats have grown increasingly anxious following President Barack Obama’s lackluster debate performance against Republican nominee Mitt Romney last week. Polls taken since then have shown a narrowed race, increasing pressure on this, the one vice-presidential debate.

One row forward, Zach Papaccio sat with other members of the debate team. He said he didn’t really favor one party or the other. Instead, it was his first semester with the team, and Papaccio, a senior from Cherry Hill, was watching the match for debating tips.

He liked the way Ryan compared Romney’s remarks about the 47 percent who don’t pay taxes to Biden’s occasional gaffes. Papaccio said, “He shut him down.”

The debate was part of the school’s Political Engagement Project, which seeks to get school students more interested and engaged in politics, said Debate Club President Joe Gonzalez, a Stockton senior.

A few more rows forward, Krista McKay, a sophomore from Holmdel, Monmouth County, intently watched the debate with some friends. She will vote for the first time next month, and she said she wants to be prepared.

She said that she initially liked Obama, but has since begun leaning toward the Republicans.

“I just like how Ryan is going about this,” she said.

After the debate, Gonzalez pulled Childs’ name out of a box. She won the raffle, and got her choice of cutouts of Biden or Ryan. Which one would adorn her dorm?

“Paul Ryan, he’s hot,” Childs said, as Gaffney picked the Ryan cutout up, put him under her arm, and they walked out of the auditorium.

Contact Derek Harper:


Follow Derek Harper on Twitter @dnharper

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