Small Florida university preps for big debate

October 21, 2012 8:39:37 PM PDT
The first one went to Mitt Romney. The second was won by President Barack Obama. Now, both candidates are looking for Monday to be a defining day that pushes them toward a November win.

For a small campus in south Florida, there was a lot of activity at Lynn University on Sunday night. This private school with just 2,100 students will host Monday night's third and final presidential debate.

Jocelyn Grayson is a student and won a ticket to see it in person.

"I really want to hear both parties' opinion on Libya, because that's the one thing I keep hearing about," Grayson said. "I'm really confused. I don't know the whole story. I'm just hoping for some clarification."

Foreign policy aside, Lynn is the youngest university ever to host a presidential debate, and its student body is excited about the big stage they're about to enjoy.

"It's phenomenal," student Chandra Lugo said. "How can we not love it right now? Everyone wants to be at Lynn University. Everyone wants to be a Fighting Knight. I'm loving it."

"This is very historic and I felt that I'd like to take part in it by taking some pictures to document it," student Jeremy Heitz said.

"I don't follow politics that much, but definitely it's a big deal," student Ramani Kapur said.

But, of course, this is about more than a school's prominence. It's about the presidency and a debate that could shift the campaign to one camp or the other.

"I honestly believe that this year that presidential debates matter," Robert Watson said.

Watson is a Lynn University professor who's written 34 books on American history and the presidency.

He says the significance of having the critical debate in Florida -- the largest of the battleground states -- can't be overstated.

"We're in the fourth quarter. The game's tied. Obama won the second debate, Romney won the first, the VP was a tie," Watson said. "They're one-and-one, the fourth quarter, coming down here to Florida, the biggest swing state to talk about foreign policy -- such an important topic. You could not script such a good story."

So Monday, for the final time, the two men who want to be president for the next four years debate each other one-on-one.

And it'll be big, at a place known for being small.

"Here at Lynn, we're a small school but we do big things," student Joseph Hefferan said.

Romney was already in Boca Raton on Sunday. He took some time away from debate preparations, first visiting a church then tossing the coin in a flag football game between reporters and campaign aides.

The former Massachusetts governor refused to talk about policies or poll numbers with the press.

Meanwhile, the White House released a photo of the president at Camp David on Sunday. President Obama arrived there Friday for his debate preps, but the White House says the photo shows a conference call between the president, the country's homeland security adviser and others talking about Sunday's deadly spa shooting in Wisconsin.

Don't forget: Monday, you will be able to cast your vote in one of the candidate's favor when early voting begins in Texas. Because of a court ruling, voters carrying their registration cards will not have to show a photo ID this year. An all-time record of 13.64 million Texans have registered to vote this year.

Stay with Eyewitness News for the latest from the campaign trail. Tom Abrahams will be in Florida for the debate and will continue to bring you live reports on the preparations before the debate and its aftermath. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter for updates from the field.

You can also watch the debate on ABC13, beginning Monday at 8pm.


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