Do presidential debates tackle real issues or they just showmanship?
Voters have given different responses to that question since the Kennedy-Nixon debates were held in 1960.
As President Obama and Mitt Romney were preparing for their first debate Wednesday, area residents gave different responses on whether they would watch it.
“Debates help people know the truth, and we don’t want a bunch of lies,” said Calvin Fields, 60, of Hagerstown. “I’m looking to see how each candidate will improve the economy.”
Fields said he planned to watch the debate Wednesday and at the time was supporting President Obama for re-election.
Of 42 area people spoken with Wednesday, 13 said they would watch the debate that night, 16 said they would not, and 13 said they were not sure.
John Foltz, 63, of Waynesboro, Pa., said he would watch the debate. He added he was somewhat undecided as a voter but did not say which candidate he was leaning toward.
“I’d like to get each candidate’s angles about the recession and deficit,” he said. “In some cases, the debates are showmanship, but I like it when they talk about different things and then see their reaction.”
Jay Everly of Hagerstown said the debates are important because they reveal more about each candidate.
“People can see the honesty in a candidate in the debates,” he said. “During their campaign they only make stops and give speeches in certain locations.”
Everly, 77, said he was a Romney supporter and wanted to see how Romney could “stick it to Obama” in the first debate.
“Romney should bring up all Obama’s failures,” he said. “Obama promised many things to unite the country, but it’s still so divisive.”
Among the people who said they would watch the debate, five said they were supporting Obama, four said they were supporting Romney, and four said they either were undecided or did not want to reveal whom they supported.
Among the people who said they would not watch the debate, three were supporting Obama, four were supporting Romney, and seven were undecided or refused to say whom they supported. Two others said they would not watch the debate because they did not like either candidate.
Regina Shrader, 68, of Hagerstown, said there were a variety of issues she wanted to be talked about during the debate.
“I’d like things to be explained as far as Medicare, women’s issues, plans for the middle class, and education,” she said. “I’m looking to see a clear plan from both candidates.”
Shrader’s husband, Calvin, 78, said he would like to see Romney have to explain his comments about 47 percent of Americans being dependent on the government.
“A lot of people have had problems in this economy, and I think Romney is for the rich,” he said. “He showed through his campaign that he’s not for working people or seniors.”
Shrader said Medicare and Social Security were big issues to him.
The debate was to be held at the University of Denver with PBS Newsman Jim Lehrer the moderator.
Gerald Brunner, 71, of Hagerstown, said that he thought President Obama had an unfair advantage in the debates.
“All the liberal press does is give him softballs,” he said. “I want to know where each candidate stands.”
Brunner added, however, that “It’s important to see what both their plans are. ... Obama’s plans won’t pull us out of this.”
Frederick, Md., resident Julie Castillo, 47, said because of all of the ads and disputes from each campaign so far that the debates are important to watch.
“I don’t know what information to take away from the ads,” she said. “I’m trying to come to the debates a little fresh.
“My plan was to tune in and see what they are saying,” Castillo said. “I also have two teenage sons, and I want them to see it for educational purposes.”
There are two more scheduled presidential debates and one scheduled vice presidential debate before the election.