Domestic issues dominate debate

By Gus Bode

Candidates spar over education, jobs

Domestic issues dominated the final debate between President Bush and Sen. John Kerry Wednesday night, taking the candidates into waters they only waded into during their first two match-ups and bringing issues such as education, jobs and the minimum wage to the forefront.

Despite this, political observers say the 90-minute sparring match may do little to break the deadlock between the two candidates.


“I don’t know if there was any clear winner,” said John Jackson, a visiting professor at the SIUC Public Policy Institute. “It was a good substantive debate. There was no major gaffe on either side.”

The debate, which took place at Arizona State University and was moderated by Bob Schieffer of CBS’s “Face The Nation,” marks the final time the two candidates will appear together before the Nov. 2 election. After two previous debates focused largely on the war in Iraq, Wednesday’s showdown gave the candidates an opportunity to open up on issues affecting the home front and stake their claim on voters who may still be undecided.

Education was one issue that recurred throughout the evening.

Bush, speaking on the question of jobs, cited his administration’s broadening of the Pell Grant, which provides education funding to almost 5 million American college students, about 6,000 of who attend SIUC. Bush touted his move in 2003 to provide the grant to a million more students, saying “the best way to keep jobs in America is to make sure our schools work.”

Kerry shot back, saying Bush distorted the figure and that, in fact, more people are receiving the Pell Grant because more people lack the money to pay tuition. He also said if elected, he would strive to see the minimum wage raised to $7 an hour.

On other fronts, Bush and Kerry tangled with each other over issues of abortion and gay marriage, two of the topics that sparked the unusual conversations about God in the debate. Kerry, citing Vice President Dick Cheney’s lesbian daughter as an example of how homosexuality is a lifestyle instead of a choice, said gays should not be discriminated against but that marriage should remain between a man and a woman. In a rare moment in the campaign, Bush’s views ran along the same line.

“We’re all God’s children,” Kerry said. “It’s not a choice. We have to respect that. But I believe marriage is between a man and a woman.”


In Carbondale, people gathered in several spots to watch the debate. In the Communications Building, a handful of people gathered to watch and discuss the debate, and at Mugsy McGuire’s, Republicans from SIUC and the broader Southern Illinois region gathered to watch the debate on 11 screens in the game room.

From students to Carbondale Mayor Brad Cole, the room was packed with debate watchers who came out to support the president.

“I just know that it’s free drafts,” said John Minton, a senior in history from Cobden. “I’m here to have a good time with fellow college Republicans – that’s one. And two is that I’m here to see the debate.”