Augustana College students prepare for presidential debate

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Even though the first of three presidential debates kicks off Wednesday night in Denver, it's going to be a great learning lab for students at Augustana College in Rock Island.

That's because the college is hosting Debate Watch. It takes place 7:30 Wednesday evening at Evald Hall, 3601 7th Ave., Rock Island. The event is open to the public.

Earlier Wednesday, Augie students were learning how to be good political consumers.

"What makes a debate?" asked Dr. Steve Klien, professor of communication studies.

Dr. Klien and Dr. Chris Whitt, assistant professor of political science, will be hosting the debate party.

Students are monitoring the presidential campaign and ready for just about anything.

"Obama probably just wants to play it safe," said Dr. Klien. "There's not a whole lot he can lose in this debate. But Romney really has to try to make this debate a game-changer."

After a barrage of campaigning and commercials, that means going after undecided voters. Candidates can actually answer questions or craft responses to reach that target audience.

"What I always look for is what sort of certain theme is the candidate trying to present during the debate?" Dr. Klien said.

While viewers might hope for something more spontaneous and exciting, the debate could well be more predictable and rehearsed.

Both sides are getting plenty of practice away from the cameras. The Romney team has been drilling for that magic moment to get national attention.

"He's been practicing a number of what they're calling zingers for the past couple of months," Dr. Klien said.

This tradition dates back to ancient Greece. Now, this class is ready for the contemporary challenge.

"This is a chance to show folks how they think on their feet, and how they respond to tough questions," Dr. Klien said.

These Augustana College students will be listening for the answers.