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Panelists weigh in on debate
Times holds forum during debate
Alfred Chang

Watch video of the debate panel as they discussed the event.

Watch video of debate panelists' closing thoughts.

Read the entire live blog from Tuesday's debate.

Check out a sample ballot.

"(McCain) made up for what he lacked in the first debate, which was he had a really hard time showing that he empathized with folks on Main Street."
Alfred Chang
Republican and local attorney

"Obama definitely won the debate. I feel like he represents values that are going to actually help middle and lower class Americans."
Taylor Lanham
Democrat and Gainesville State College history student

"Overall, they both performed better than they did in their first debate. I did choose Obama, and I would say he was a slight winner. ... I was impressed that he came across straight forward and said that health care was a right that Americans have."
Lauren Bell
Obama delegate to the Democratic National Convention and local attorney

"I didn't see a clear winner in the debates. ... The experience for me is always a nonissue because there's nothing that really prepares you for being president of the United States because it is a very unique position that anyone is in when they get to that position."
Douglas Ealey
Undecided voter and political science and religion professor at Gainesville State College

"I think McCain slightly won. ... He's finally addressing Obamanomics as far as his tax plan because it will affect small business."
Tom McAllister
Republican and local consulting firm business owner

John McCain: I won’t raise your taxes, my friend.

Barack Obama: I will kill Bin Laden.

So went round two of the presidential debate Tuesday as Republican candidate Sen. John McCain squared off against Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama. As candidates grappled in Nashville, Tenn., to gain ground in their opponent’s mainstay territories, The Times hosted its own debate panel to gauge Gainesville residents’ reactions to the debate.

The 11-person panel was comprised of two undecided voters, six Obama supporters and three McCain supporters. A Gainesville State College professor joined a Gainesville State College student in the undecided electorate; an attorney, another Gainesville State College professor and four students were the Obama supporters; while a Hall County school teacher, an attorney and a small business owner were the McCain supporters.

Five panelists declared Obama the winner of the debate, three said McCain came out on top and three others, including the two undecided voters, called it a tie.

Before moderator Tom Brokaw opened the debate, all 11 panelists said priority No. 1 for the debate was to hear clear answers from candidates about what they will do to redirect the economy in their presidency.

McCain supporters cited fault with Obama’s tax cuts for what the candidate said would positively affect 95 percent of Americans who earn less than $250,000 a year. Republican panelists said increasing taxes for the remaining 5 percent would result in a negative effect on small businesses.

The undecided professor said McCain’s plan to fix the economy contradicts conservative philosophy. McCain said he planned to not raise taxes and simultaneously ask the Treasury to purchase homes facing foreclosure.

Obama insisted that initiating alternative energy industries would create 5 million new jobs for Americans and would help to put the economy back on track.

Health care and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan proved to be the other hot-button issues for our panelists.

As polls suggest Obama is pulling ahead, nearly all local panelists agreed there was no clear winner Tuesday. They compared Obama to an academic lecturer and said McCain’s delivery was crisper in the town-hall debate style, a forum he’s often adopted on his own campaign trail.

The undecided participants said after the debate that their votes were still up for grabs.

The final presidential debate is set for Oct. 15 in Hempstead, N.Y.

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