Stony Brook political science professor Leonie Huddy spoke on the issues concerning Stony Brook students that were brought up at the Democratic presidential debate on Oct. 13, 2015 and analyzed which candidates performed best under pressure.
Huddy, the director of the Survey Research Center at Stony Brook University, brought up candidate Bernie Sanders’ proposal during the debate for free college tuition. Especially of interest was his “excellent” point that a high school level-education is no longer sufficient to operate in a modern workforce. However, Huddy questioned the feasibility of the policy and how it will be implemented.
“I’ve seen some criticisms of the Sanders plan in terms of ‘Will enough money be raised?’ in terms of taxes on the wealthy to pay for this,” Huddy said in an interview with The Statesman, referring to Sanders’ proposed tax on Wall Street financial speculation. “This is another place where I think the news media can be helping out more by digging into these plans, giving us some cost estimates.”
Hillary Clinton proposed that only tuition for public universities should be free, and that students should work off the rest of the costs themselves.
“On the one hand, the notion that we’re paying for Donald Trump’s kids to go to school doesn’t sit well with anyone,” Huddy said, referring to a statement made by Hillary earlier in the month. “So if tuition is free, and there’s no means testing of any kind, that doesn’t seem right. I’m a university professor at a state university. [Sanders’ education plan] sounds great to me, but there are a lot of things out there that require money and education is at the top of that list.”
Huddy also brought attention to the skirmish between Clinton and Sanders on gun control. While Sanders advocated for “common sense” gun control that could get bipartisan support within Congress, Clinton brought an uncompromising stance on the issue. Clinton’s rhetoric was more effective, according to Huddy.
“I thought [Clinton] won the points on that one,” Huddy said. “There was also the issue of gun manufacturers. There was a specific piece of legislation that was designed to give them immunity, and I guess [Sanders] voted for it. He didn’t have a clear and straightforward answer. It was a weakness for him, and I don’t think it did him any favors.”
Huddy also spoke about key moments during the debate that may have left an impact on the audience, such as Anderson Cooper’s pointed question toward Clinton in the beginning: “Will you say anything to become president?”
“What [Clinton] basically said was, and it’s a reasonable response, ‘I’m pragmatic. Things change.’ ” Huddy said. “Now, do we think she was evading the answer? But I think from the public’s perspective, that was good enough.”
On the peripheral candidates, Huddy said that Martin O’Malley was “decent,” with strong and forceful points. Huddy said she does not expect Jim Webb or Lincoln Chafee to continue much longer in the Democratic field.
“I thought that Jim Webb was terrible. His answers were unfocused, sometimes they weren’t even fully logical.” Huddy said. “Lincoln Chafee, I don’t know what to say about him. In general, he was just out of the swing of things. He just really didn’t get into it. He wasn’t a central actor, his answers weren’t great, and he certainly didn’t seem very presidential.”
Huddy will continue her analysis of the presidential debates with the next Republican debate, hosted by CNBC on Oct. 28, 2015.