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Tom Smart, Deseret News
Members of the Bingham High School debate team discuss who is winning as they watch the presidential debate Friday night.<BR>

SOUTH JORDAN — High school debate team members from around the Salt Lake Valley weighed-in on what they saw and heard Friday night from the two men vying for the nation's highest office — and they call it a draw.

Nine students from Bingham High's four-time, and current, state-champion debate team split 5-4 to Barack Obama over John McCain following the telecast, but felt that there was very little difference, other than style, revealed during the square-off to distinguish the candidates. Bingham senior Abigail Kingsford said the presentation differences she saw Friday are the ones that have been apparent to her throughout the campaign.

"McCain has a more natural approach," Kingsford said. "He presents in a narrative style, where Obama is more structured with his presentation ... and numbered points."

Kingsford's senior classmate, Daniel Shackelford, said he was more impressed by McCain's responses to PBS newsman Jim Lehrer's questions.

"I felt like on most points, Obama was getting away from the issues and McCain stayed more focused," Shackelford said. "McCain stuck to his guns on what his position was."

The group agreed in a post-debate discussion that McCain's tendency throughout the evening to avoid eye contact with either Lehrer or Obama was a mistake, and gave the edge to what they felt was Obama's consistent appearance of engagement.

Across the valley, Lone Peak High School junior Cameron Partovi watched the debate with a classmate and felt Obama came out just barely ahead.

"I thought that, overall, Obama had a more organized manner," Partovi said. "McCain seemed less prepared ... and was shooting from the hip."

Partovi said he felt nothing new was presented Friday, in terms of platform issues, and that neither candidate was very impressive.

Rowland Hall junior Andrew Arsht also came away from the debate without being wowed by either candidate.

"Honestly, I don't think either of them gained ground on the other," Arsht said. "Based purely on presentation strategy, McCain was maybe a little more effective and his little speeches were well prepared."

Arsht said the line of the night was McCain's comment on looking into the eyes of former Russian President Vladimir Putin and seeing the letters K-G-B.

"That was a great line," Arsht said. "And, clearly, it was prepared."


E-mail: araymond@desnews.com