If Tuesday night's presidential debate was an assignment, how would you grade each candidate? We asked public speaking students and their professors to weigh in.
Political experts agreed that President Obama needed to deliver in the second debate. Although the pundits had mixed reviews, students we talked to at DeSales University, a Catholic school near Allentown, almost universally gave the debate to Obama. Local communications professors felt the contest was more of a draw.
"At the end of the night, it's hard to tell that there was clear winner," said Tim Brown, of Cedar Crest College in Allentown.
Students in Lois Gadek's public speaking class at DeSales said the debate seemed more like a boxing match at times.
"It looked like they could start beating each other at any second," said junior Kimberly Martel.
Many of Gadek's students felt Mitt Romney came off angry and standoff-ish.
"Romney, I just feel like, is very unapproachable in certain situations," said sophomore Paige Nebistinsky.
The students gave President Obama credit for rebounding after, what critics called, a weak first-debate performance.
"The first debate, he was much more timid and frazzled, and in this debate, he came off much more on the offensive, and made his points clear," said Rachel Singer, a DeSales junior.
Lauren Smith had the honor of being the only member of the class to give the debate to Gov. Romney.
"Obama had a lot of -- most of his opinions came from what he's going to do, and he promised to do those things during his first campaign," she said.
Some students spent the debate online, fact-checking candidates' claims in real time.
"Talk about an accountability issue," Gadek told her class. "Now, the words and the statistics are barely out of your mouth and somebody's saying, 'Oh, excuse me! That's not correct.'"
As soon as the debate was over, pundits started weighing-in about body language, but do we spend too much time focusing on style over substance? Gadek argued that we don't.
"What people say is only about 20 percent of what they mean," she said.
Gadek believes you can tell a lot about a candidate's leadership qualities through physical cues.
"Do I believe this person?", she said. "Do I think this person has the self-control and the vision of how to relate to other people, even difficult people?"
"By virtue of the medium, it always becomes to a certain extent about telegenics," he said.
We've been doing this with candidates for some time. History remembers Richard Nixon's sweat-streamed performance against Jack Kennedy, and who could forget the elder George Bush looking at his watch -- seemingly bored -- in 1992?
"Where people aren't getting a real response to their answer, they start focusing on those other elements," said Brown.
Since we're talking to professors, after all, we asked them to grade each candidate.
"Obama a strong B," said Brown. "I would give Romney probably a B-minus -- maybe a C, in terms of that confrontational edge at points."
Gadek's scores were similar.
"President Obama -- a B or B-plus, because I thought he managed his non-verbal communication skills better," she said. "And I think I would give Gov. Romney maybe a B-minus, because I didn't think he handled them as well."