Political Match Spawns Odd Scenes on Campus; Jon Stewart Imitations, Stephen Colbert Chants, and Pastor Terry Jones Himself

Article excerpt

Byline: Matt Soergel

As a woman dabbed a handkerchief at Wolf Blitzer's forehead, fellow CNN host John King stepped to the edge of the stage and made this suggestion: "Swoop?"

The students on the Green at the University of North Florida hooted back at him: "Swoop! Swwooooop!" Think of it as the Ospreys' equivalent of the Gator Chomp.

King smiled.

"The world now understands what the Swoop is," he told them.

Thursday was no ordinary day at UNF.

Many classes were canceled. Parking was even more brutal than it usually is. News trucks idled in parking lots, a CNN tent sprouted up on the Green, and students talked of spotting Blitzer in the campus Starbucks.

The Republican presidential debate - and the attendant national attention - came to the school Thursday, and students were well aware of the significance.

"You know, I told someone that the future president of the United States is going to be at the Boathouse tonight, and I used to drink beer at the Boathouse," electrical engineering major Jamison Parker said. "So we have this connection."

Fellow electrical engineering students chuckled and agreed - there was a certain excitement there, on a campus that sometimes is a little sleepy.

As night fell, tensions grew and voices were raised as protestors competed for attention. For much of the day, though, under May-like heat, the campus stayed quiet.

Political science majors Erik Clarke and Collin Doyle rose to the occasion though, carrying signs suggesting vice presidential nominees for the four candidates - each one a notorious cinematic villain: Romney and Goblin. Gingrich and Penguin. Santorum and Sauron (of "Lord of the Rings"). Paul and Palpatine (of "Star Wars").

Clarke said they wanted to inject some Jon Stewart levity into an event that needed it. But hey, he said: This was a big day for his school.

"If you can't tell, I'm a Democrat," he said. "But given the choice of having a Republican debate on the campus or not having a debate, let's have a Republican debate."

During the day, CNN broadcast frequent updates from the campus, which was spruced up with extra UNF banners.

That gave a chance for people to show off their Ron Paul and Occupy signs, while an airplane towed a banner reading "Betya 10K your tax rate is higher than Mitts! …