A Seat at the Presidential Debate – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

A Seat at the Presidential Debate

While many remained fervently glued to their televisions as President Barack Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney exchanged heated words during the second Presidential Debate, Esther Altomare ’13 also paid rapt attention – mere feet from both candidates.

“It was incredible to see it unfold in front of me,” recalls Altomare, a political science major, who served as a production assistant for the Commission on Presidential Debates during the debate held at Hofstra University. “Without the cameras, I was able to see the whole stage. In a way I felt more connected because I could focus on what I wanted to see, not what the camera wanted me to pay attention to.”

The Town Hall style debate invited constituents in the community of Hempstead, N.Y., to watch as Obama and Romney debated matters put forth by the audience of undecided voters.  As part of her duties, Altomare was responsible for running errands for members of the commission as they hurried to prepare the space, as well as the press and debate attendees.

In addition to touring the facilities, walking through the rows of computers in “spin alley” and getting a firsthand look at all of the detail that goes into the flawless execution of a debate, Altomare helped guide commission co-chair Mike McCurry around the facilities, leading him to a press conference for international delegates and a tent for places such as the University Club.

Altomare was also responsible for checking social media leading up to the debate, ensuring that none of the town hall participants posted about their selection on sites such as Facebook or Twitter. This was done in an attempt to keep media from hounding any of the 80 undecided voters selected to participate in the debate. She even had the opportunity to stand-in for one of town hall participants, and ask the stand-in Obama and Romney questions.

“It was amazing to witness the pools of different people – people from every background and political party – helping to pull the event together,” says Altomare. “It was a truly unique experience.”

On campus, Altomare is a student worker in the Hobart Dean’s Office. She is also a member of the ski team, and currently serves as co-captain.