SOUTH BEND -- Lowell Ritter, a 20-year-old Indiana University South Bend student, is part of a much sought-after group in the presidential election: the independent voting bloc.
Unlike those of many Americans, Ritter's vote is still up for grabs.
Standing among crowds of IUSB students watching the first presidential debate Wednesday night, the first-time voter hoped to be swayed by one of the candidates.
"More than anything, I want to hear what they really think," Ritter said in the university's Community Building, watching President Barack Obama spar with Republican hopeful Mitt Romney.
Young and fresh, Ritter viewed the debate intently, open to being persuaded.
"I'm still trying to seek out where my values fall," Ritter said.
About 50 students and some nonstudents gathered in the room, some watching the debate carefully, others chatting.
Megan Clayton, 26, watched the debate with her husband, Paul Clayton, a 27-year-old IUSB student.
Megan Clayton is searching for a job, looking for just about "anything."
Perhaps the most tangible piece of politics that has affected her life during the Obama administration is the passing of the Affordable Care Act, which had allowed her to remain on her parents' health care plan.
She fears losing options for affordable health care if a Romney administration repealed the act next year, as she looks for employment and her husband continues his studies.
"I want insurance," she said simply.
On the other side of the fence, Chaise Cope, a 20-year-old IUSB student, hoped to see the candidates offer real information during the debate, but said she is "pretty sold" on Romney.
She said his pro-life stance is important to her.
Richard Flowers, 50, a graduate of IUSB, came to the debate to learn how young voters view economic issues.
But few outward signs of distaste or approval reverberated in the room throughout the debate, he said.
"I'm not hearing laughs or disdain," he said.
Yet it could be because people were so far unsurprised by the debate content, he said.
"I haven't really learned anything new about either one," Flowers said of the candidates as they were about 45 minutes into the debate.
He said he felt the candidates stuck to common talking points frequently made in both campaigns.
Staff writer Madeline Buckley: