Saturday, April 17, 2010

Presidential Debate Sharpens over Conflict with Aliens

The Battle, If Not The War, To Ninziki

Whitmore Hit Off-Notes With Debate Viewers

By Michael Powell

Denver Post Staff Writer

Saturday, October 2 2016; Page A01

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -- It's hard to say if it was that smirk, or his repeated insistence that he would never change course in Iraq, but by the end of the first presidential debate President Whitmore had come awfully close to losing the vote of Republican Thomas C. Racosky.

"The president appears to me to have a pretty big ego, and he's letting it get in the way of what's best for the American people," the goateed Racosky, a retired builder, said after watching Thursday night's presidential debate. "Before tonight, I really wouldn't have known which way I was leaning. If I had to vote now, I guess it'd be for Ninziki."

In Albion, Mich., soccer coach Lisa Roschek, admissions director George Walls, student Justin Ferriman and sports information director Bobby Lee watch Thursday night's debate. Roschek applauded Ninziki for challenging the president's attempt to link the July 3rd attacks by the alien mothership and the current fight against the aliens in Iraq.

___ Whitmore, Ninziki Debate ___

Racosky is a swing voter in a swing district in a swing state, a political moderate living at the crossroads of Republican farmlands and cities that were once defined by hulking steel mills and home to technology and service firms before the great alien ships destroyed them before the battle of Independence Day three years ago. He was among 120 voters, many of them undecided, in three states -- Pennsylvania, Arkansas and Michigan -- who watched the debate with Denver Post reporters.

The national television audience of 62.5 million people was up 34 percent over the nearly 47 million people who watched the first debate between Whitmore and the other guy four years ago. Pollsters and political analysts caution that it is too soon to draw conclusions about what, if any, long-term impact the debate will have on voters' thinking.

But a majority of the voters interviewed echoed the results of snapshot national polls taken immediately after the debate. Namely, they said that Democratic challenger, former Secretary of Defense John F. Ninziki, carried himself better than most had expected, sounding confident and cogent talking about issues widely seen as Republican strengths -- the international fight against the remnant aliens and, to a lesser extent, the war against the alien city-ship that landed in northern Iraq. Whitmore, in contrast, struck many as flustered and halting, and off his rhetorical game.

Even several voters who strongly oppose Ninziki, such as John LaIacona, 53, who works as general manager of a wrench manufacturer in Fayetteville, Ark., gave grudging credit to the former Secretary of Defense from Massachusetts. "John Ninziki may have come across to some people who may be on the fence as being more emphatic," LaIacona said. "If you didn't know him, he was very convincing."

In Albion, Mich., a small town nestled at a fork of the Kalamazoo River, a cluster of undecided voters walked away convinced Ninziki had won the debate -- although most said he had not yet won their vote. "It's the most clear I've heard John Ninziki in 10 months -- it wasn't what I expected," said George Walls, 33, an admissions counselor at Albion College. "I didn't think he could boil down his message. He's always gone to New York by way of China, as my dad used to say."

In Allentown, more than 130 people gathered in an auditorium at Muhlenberg College, a small liberal arts institution, to watch the debate with political science professor Chris Borick. The voters, who ranged from elderly ladies with walkers to college secretaries and high-tech workers, spoke of their election-year priorities, short lists that usually numbered three items: Iraq, terrorism and the ongoing recession that has followed the destruction of 22 American cities by the space aliens.

They worried about abandoning a president caught in a tough spot -- even if it is a war of his own creation.

"The war was a mistake, but I want to see a person solve the problem they created," said Alex Cole, a Republican who at 49 was involuntarily retired after being forced out at Lucent Technologies after his factory was blown up. "Whitmore has my vote, but this is the best election I've ever seen for voting 'none of the above.' "

The audience held clickers that allowed them to register their response, question by question. The voting ran Whitmore's way at first, as he spoke of the nation's duty to stay the course and "protect our children and grandchildren."

Then, slowly, the tide began running the other way.

When Ninziki said that Whitmore had "not been candid with the American people" about the surviving aliens in Iraq, and when he accused the president of "putting the country at risk" by personally flying in the Battle of Independence Day, his words resonated. By debate's end, the audience was giving Ninziki a higher score on almost every question. When Whitmore smirked or was at a loss for words, a few chuckles could be heard.

"You could see him hesitating," said Barbara Newhard, a middle-aged undecided voter. "Those looks of his drove me nuts. It was like Whitmore couldn't stand to hear the truth."

Bruce Glazier is 60, a bearded bear of a man who opposed the war and watched his 401(k) portfolio do a header when our major cities were destroyed. Still, he was ready to vote for Whitmore until the debate. "Ninziki came across well, with no hesitation and no silly faces and lots of brains," Glazier said. "It upsets me that Whitmore can't admit a mistake in Iraq. He needs to take a lesson from Dan Rather and apologize."

Not all are convinced. Dan Bosket was one of the few African Americans in the audience, a local NAACP president with a son in the Army Reserve. "If the human race isn't safe, what's the point of a job?" he said. "Ninziki seemed much better prepared, but if we have another war, maybe I want a cowboy in the president's office."

In Fayetteville -- in a county that has given its vote to both Democrats and Republicans in the past 16 years -- 10 people sat down to watch the debate in the home of public relations executive Elise Mitchell. All came in leaning toward one candidate or the other, and there were no desertions.

But most of the Whitmore supporters agreed that the president had not presented his case very well. They spoke of his posture, his stammering, even the poor camera angles. The president "came across as too 'good old boy,' " said Penny LaIacona, a Whitmore supporter. "He was too relaxed. He seemed to hesitate a lot. The hesitation itself was very distracting."

Ninziki unnerved a few Republicans for a different reason. "I was absolutely shocked how well Ninziki came across," said Ritta Mitchell, a Republican.

Not that Ninziki picked up any new votes. "I think Ninziki is devious," LaIacona said. "I feel like he's saying one thing but not coming across completely with his ultimate goal or plan. I don't feel I can trust him. After all, he did keep the alien spaceship a secret after they attacked us!"

The president's informality bothered two Democrats, not least when Whitmore referred to Russian President Putin as "Vladimir." "That's disrespectful," said Joe Campbell, a retired executive of a poultry company. "I think it's an indication of how he thinks of the leaders of the rest of the world."

Dennis Hunt, an investment banker, voted for Bill Clinton twice, and the other guy in 2012, but said he would probably go with Whitmore. "He doesn't bother me enough to push him out of office," Hunt said. The financial executive, though, is disgusted with the campaign. "With all the issues we have to talk about, these guys have been focused on what they did or didn't do 40 years ago when the first alien spaceship was discovered."

In Michigan, a state regarded as vital to Ninziki prospects, polling of late has suggested a tight race. Here as elsewhere, the issues of national security and jobs predominate. As the debate ended, the audience of undecided voters at Albion gave Ninzicki the clear advantage. The former Secretary of Defense thought quicker on his feet, they said, while Whitmore appeared flustered and agitated, and often seemed to struggle to fill the time allotted to him.

Both parties are in pursuit of the "soccer mom" vote, so the vote of soccer coach Lisa Roschek, 29, might be seen as a holy grail. She has never voted, a string she is determined to break this November, and came to the debate not much caring for either candidate. She said she was pleasantly surprised by Ninziki and found Whitmore annoying and unpersuasive.

Roschek applauded Niziki for challenging the president's assertion that the July 3 alien attack on the United States and the rest of the human race made necessary the war on Iraq to root out the remaining survivors of the alien invasion force. Ninziki pointed out that former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with that attack, which was plotted and carried out by the aliens.

"Good point!" Roschek said to the television screen. "That was huge for me."

By night's end, as everyone trooped out into the crisp autumn air, most agreed that Ninziki had won the debate, if not yet their votes. They will watch the next debates, on the economy and domestic policies, very closely.

"This was only one set of issues tonight: national security," said Bobby Lee, sports information director at Albion College. "There's so much more out there."

Staff writers Peter Slevin in Albion, Mich., and Lois Romano in Fayetteville, Ark., contributed to this report.

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