Close to 100 people were on hand Thursday night when the MU College Republicans and College Democrats held the first annual debate between the two groups.
"The clash of great ideas furthers democracy, and that is our purpose here this evening," said Brian Johnson, president of the College Republicans, at the beginning of the event.
Each political group was represented by three students. Nissa Wallinga, Angad Nagra and Glenn Rehn were on hand for the Democrats, while Matt Cleveland, Danny French and Taylor Liane debated for the Republicans.
The debate focused on foreign policy, fiscal policy, health care and education issues. A panel of three student journalists - Ann Hynek, Jackie Janus and Matt Talhelm - served as moderators for the evening, keeping time and asking questions to direct the debate.
The debate was a way for the two groups to present the public with information in a different manner than typical political advertisements, said Caleb Lewis, president of the College Democrats.
"It's a fun way to get the information out," Lewis said.
Early on the debate focused on the two likely presidential candidates and their positions on the war in Iraq and the creation of new American jobs. One topic that drew heated exchanges was the Patriot Act.
The Republicans argued that the Patriot Act was a necessary part of the War on Terrorism and that the war will be one of the most important issues in the upcoming election.
"The act is an essential part of the war on terrorism," Cleveland said. "If you eliminate the Patriot Act, the war on terrorism will be fought and lost here on the home front."
The Democrats argued that Iraq was not necessarily part of the war on terrorism.
"It's basically just an excuse for us to go in and play the hero once again," said Wallinga of U.S. involvement in Iraq.
The debate also covered capping of monetary awards in medical malpractice lawsuits, the No Child Left Behind Act and funding for higher education.
At least two more debates will be held during the next school year before the November presidential election.