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Tamar Abrams Headshot

Dear Candidates, Stop Phoning it In

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I watched Wednesday night's presidential debate with my 19-year-old daughter and several of her college roommates. To be perfectly clear, they were in their dorm at Drexel University in Philadelphia and I was in my home in Arlington, Va., but we were together thanks to Skype. I could see them on my computer on the coffee table and hear their comments. And all of us were tweeting and reading tweets throughout the debate. For the Drexel students, this is their first time voting for president and they are interested and appalled, by turns. As they should be.

Although technology such as Skype made this debate more interesting, the candidates themselves did not. From the moment President Obama began what may be the pivotal point in this election by talking about his anniversary with a nod to his "sweetie," I knew we were in big trouble. That's the kind of thing your self-involved boss does at the company Christmas party that results in eye-rolling. It's even worse coming from the Commander-in-Chief.

I am staunchly in the Obama camp, but confess that I saw a man who was simply not engaged with either his audience or his opponent. At times, he looked as though he were working on a crossword puzzle. And both men spoke as though they were addressing policy wonks rather than college students and suburban moms. Bowles-Simpson? Come on, are we supposed to know what that is? And all the math lessons... At least we know what Romney likes -- coal, Big Bird, Jim Lehrer and presumably vacant smiles. Of course he does seem to have an affinity for the number 47 -- as evidenced by his secret dismissal of 47 percent of the electorate and his estimation of 47 million people on food stamps. Maybe it's a Mormon thing?

It's hard to imagine that there are many undecided voters a mere month before the election, but I know last night's debate made an impact on my daughter and her first-time voting friends at Drexel. They listened and tweeted -- about Romney's eyebrows which seemed to need their own podium, about their fears for Big Bird and about their confusion over the lack of compelling dialogue. And, in an election cycle in which women and our reproductive organs seem to be of utmost importance to men, why was there no discussion about that?

I am so excited by my child's participation in this election and feel so let down by this debate. I am hopeful that the next one will use language that speaks to real people, delivered with passion and veracity. I want my daughter to feel in her heart that democracy is wonderful and important; I want her vote to be made for someone she believes in and not against the other guy. And I want a moderator whose greatest weapon is her mind and not her sharpie.