A group of University of Washington students watching the presidential debate Tuesday night found it entertaining and engrossing.

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If the gasps and laughs Tuesday night’s presidential debate drew from a group of University of Washington students were any indication, both President Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney more than made up for a lackluster first debate.

About 50 students stealing an hour and half from their midterm studies were treated to an Obama-Romney showdown, Tuesday night at the Odegaard Undergraduate Library.

The debate had students so engrossed in what Romney and Obama were saying that when the live feed they were watching temporarily cut out, there was a loud “awww!” as organizers rushed to get the broadcast back up.

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“It was definitely entertaining,” said Esben Alslund-Lanthen, a 26-year-old political-science student. “Not that politics should be entertaining, but it was.”

Many of the awkward, intense exchanges between candidates drew laughter, but students thought Obama’s amped up passion and tenacity paid off.

“Obama was a lot more passionate in this debate. I was expecting that after his performance in the last one,” said Darren Byler, 30, an anthropology student.

“He often comes off as too professional and thoughtful, so I’m glad he really showed some emotion tonight.”

Also prompting laughs were the stream of tweets and quotes ABC’s coverage of the debate showed on screen. Students laughed throughout Romney’s explanation of how he cares about 100 percent of Americans because Romney’s disparaging quote about the work ethic of 47 percent of Americans was posted on screen as he spoke.

“We had ABC News on with the Twitter feed during the first debate, and we thought it would be too distracting at first. But they (the students) really seem to respond to it so we went with ABC again,” said Anne Davis, an anthropology librarian who helped put on the debate-watching party.

Alslund-Lanthen, a student from Denmark, found what was not said during the debate just as interesting as what was.

“I think it’s frightening that neither candidate when talking about energy mentioned ‘climate change,’ ” Alslund-Lanthen said. “I think that’s terrifying.”

Alexa Vaughn: 206-464-2515 or avaughn@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @AlexaVaughn.

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