A crowd of more than 300 people from the Oakland University community are gathered tonight at the Oakland Center banquet rooms for a watch party that isn't just about watching.
The audience also will be able to weigh in on survey questions during the debate, using hand-held devices provided by Minneapolis-based Moss Cairns LLC, which develops audience participation technology. An OU staffer said the company asked to be part of the watch party.
In a poll conducted using the Moss Cairns devices before the debate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Rep. Ron Paul led the presidential pack of those surveyed at the watch party.
The event, which included dinner and raffle prize packages, kicked off at 6 p.m. with WDIV-TV Channel 4 reporter Paula Tutman serving as emcee. Speakers included OU President Gary Russi, Gov. Rick Snyder, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, state Republican Party chairman Robert Schostak and Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, a 1977 OU graduate.
During dinner, students talked about the event and which candidates they'll support.
Matt Cannon, 20, of Clinton Township was among to assist visitors and even helped prepare for the big event. Cannon was selected to play Texas Gov. Rick Perry during the rehearsal.
“I tried to be as conservative as possible even though I consider myself a liberal,” the chemistry major said.
Cannon said he is supporting Paul in the debate because he wants to keep government “out of our economic and social lives.”
St. Clair Shores resident Tara Drummond said she feels that it is “great to have the spotlight on us.”
The 34-year-old social work major was hoping to hear if any of the candidates would draw down the military from overseas and reinvest the savings back into domestic programs.
Traffic was light at the The Speaker's Corner, a live video stream where participants could answer three questions and have their comments appear unfiltered and in real-time on CNBC.com.
But students also have been given hand-held devices that will allow them to react to what the candidates are saying. Data will be collected during, before and after the debate by Moss Cairns to determine whether and how the debate impacts student perceptions of the candidates.
Demographic data also is being captured; watch party audience members are about evenly divided in terms of gender, largely in the 18-24 age range – and most are fans of Detroit rapper Eminem. About two-thirds are OU students.