Presidential candidates discuss tuition, immigration in fiery debate

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Spectators watch the second presidential debate of the 2012 election season at Cuatros on 24th street Tuesday evening. The town hall style debate addressed immigration and women’s health, two issues that were not discussed the previous debate.

Photo Credit: Marisa Vasquez | Daily Texan Staff

In a decidely more heated debate than the first, President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Gov. Mitt Romney fielded questions straight from the voters in a town hall-style setup Tuesday night.

Obama and Romney stood before an audience of undecided voters at Hofstra University for the second presidential debate, where they were pressed on issues of job growth, education, immigration and women’s health, among other topics.

After what was generally considered a disappointing debate performance by Obama in the first debate, the president quickly established a more aggressive approach Tuesday night. On several occasions, Obama and Romney engaged in heated exchanges that were broken up by moderator Candy Crowley, CNN’s chief political correspondent.

The first question of the debate was posed by Jeremy Epstein, a 20-year-old college student who asked about job prospects for college graduates.

“What we have to do is two things,” Romney said. “We have to make sure that we make it easier for kids to afford college and also make sure that when they get out of college, there’s a job. With half of college kids graduating this year without a job and without a college-level job, that’s just unacceptable.”

Obama restated the importance of college affordability and referred to the expansion of Pell Grants under his administration.

“We’ve expanded Pell Grants for millions of people ... and as a consequence, we’ve seen millions of young people be able to afford college,” Obama said.

The candidates also addressed topics that were left out of the first presidential debate, including immigration and gun control. Obama criticized some of the positions that Romney took on immigration during the Republican primary.

“His main strategy during the Republican primary was to say, ‘We’re going to encourage self-deportation, making life so miserable on folks that they’ll leave,’” Obama said.

Responding to Obama’s self-deportation comments, Romney said he’s not in favor of rounding up undocumented residents but instead supports the ability for immigrants to make their own choice based on the opportunities available to them.

“I want our legal system to work better,” Romney said. “I want it to be streamlined; I want it to be clearer. I don’t think you should have to ... hire a lawyer to figure out how to get into this country legally.”

Speaking from a debate watch party on campus, Andre Treiber, communications director for University Democrats, said Obama’s performance Tuesday night was a welcome contrast to the first debate.

“Obama was really on the ball tonight and was really able to drive some points home that he wasn’t necessarily able to in the first debate,” Treiber said. “This time around I thought Obama had both the style and substance necessary to win the debate.”

Saul Mendoza, president of College Republicans, said the debate produced no clear winner but Romney won on particular issues, including energy.

“I thought it was a great debate, and I thought Romney did a little better than Obama,” Mendoza said. “One of the best parts of the debate was when they talked about energy. Obama tried to avoid the subject most of the time.”

The third and final presidential debate will take place Oct. 22. Early voting in Texas begins the same day. Students can vote in the Peter T. Flawn Academic Center.