The atmosphere inside Villanova University’s Pavilion Tuesday had all the exuberance of a Wildcats’ basketball game. The cheering, sold-out crowd waved blue and red boom sticks. Cheerleaders and the Wildcats mascot were on hand to amp up the fans.
But the Wildcats would have to wait until next season to pack the arena. This boisterous crowd was filling the stands to be part of history – witnessing the live broadcast of MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews and his guest, Sen. John McCain, Republican presidential candidate.
Cabrini sophomore Sean Ahern, an information systems major, was in attendance and was able to sit on the stage with other students only feet from the presidential candidate. Ahern even had the opportunity to shake Matthews’ hand.
“I went to the show for the entertainment value. I knew going into it I was not a big McCain fan. I am a huge fan of Chris Matthews’ show,” Ahern said.
Villanova was chosen as the second stop on the Hardball College Tour. The program is a regularly scheduled news talk show that is broadcast weekdays at 5 and 7 p.m. Matthews, a native of Philadelphia, launched the College Tour April 2 at West Chester University with a live interview of Sen. Barack Obama, Democratic presidential candidate.
Hardball was created in 1999 and has a proud tradition of touring some of America’s great universities, including Georgetown University, the University of Notre Dame and Harvard University, among others. Marquee guests have included Rudy Giuliani, Sen. Hilary Clinton and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
At Villanova, Sen. McCain was interviewed by Matthews on key issues of the 2008 presidential election, and students had the opportunity to question the candidate.
One student brought up Barack Obama’s recent controversial speech on racism at the National Constitution Center, when Obama alluded to his racist grandmother, referring to her as a “typical white person.” The student asked McCain, “Would you characterize yourself as a typical white person?”
McCain responded by first applauding Obama’s speech and then adding, “But I do believe that I will present a vision of optimism and strength and the profound belief and conviction that America’s best days lie ahead of us. So, I’m sorry if I basically ducked the question, but . (laughter) but I want to say that I think Americans, all Americans, want a respectful campaign.”
Not all of the questions asked were as light-hearted. Matthews concentrated on several major issues, including 527s or “unlimited expenditures of money used to run attack ads on candidates,” global warming, national security, Obama and the war in Iraq.
McCain focused on the American economy and the nation’s ongoing recession. “Americans are hurting. Americans need help,” he said. “Americans are sitting around their kitchen tables this evening figuring out how they’re going to keep their homes and how they’re going to realize the American dream.”
The presidential candidate preached the importance of inspiring a new America. “They need to have less taxes; they don’t need their taxes increased. They need to have their job opportunities and training in education with the new information technology economy the world is in today. I intend to propose a bold proposal to ensure America’s best days are ahead of us.”
“I feel he [John McCain] presented himself well but he dodged some of the questions,” Ahern said.
The Pennsylvania primary Tuesday has placed the state in the spotlight, providing students with an excellent firsthand learning experience.
On the difference between himself and President Bush, Sen. McCain said, “Well, I think there are many philosophies and views and vision that we share for America. There are other areas, specific areas, in which we are in disagreement. Chris, I think the American people will make their choice for the presidency on who they believe, not only their record, but how they articulate a vision for the future.”
“Regardless of your political affiliation it is informative to see someone you’re going to either support or just a politician in the running. The show helped me make up my mind as I was able to see McCain’s views,” Ahern said.
Ahern plans on voting for Barack Obama in the primary.
This article was previously published in the Main Line Times.