In what was described by moderator Dr. Bruce Stinebrickner as a "spirited, interesting, and, above all, informative event," the pair of political heavy hitters did not disappoint a packed house in Kresge Auditorium.
Rove, the former chief political advisor to President George W. Bush, drew some laughs early when he tried to switch sides when he realized he was on the audience's left side.
With his opening statement, each man defined his stance on some major issues, but also found ways to keep it light.
"It's a delight to be back in Indiana, especially since Indiana is now officially a blue state," Dean, the former governor of Vermont and Democratic National Chairman said.
Rove made sure to define the differences and similarities between he and Dean.
"He's on the far left and I'm on the common sense right," he remarked to a round of laughs.
"I do have respect for him -- and I hope he has respect for me -- as people who love our country," Rove added.
Surprisingly absent from the early portions of the debate was the issue of healthcare reform. Many of the issues discussed met with agreement on what the result should be, but disagreement over how to get there.
A couple of early questions centered on the nature of debate in Washington, in which the two sides can agree on little. Dean pointed to the two men's generation being more polarized, saying the generation of current students is different.
Rove, on the other hand, said current political climate is not generational, but springs from the negative climate created in the 1990s between Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich.
"We need a more healthy attitude and to have a respectful disagreement," Rove said.
On illegal immigration their opinions fell in line. Rove said the need is to secure our borders, institute a program for willing workers and resolve, in a humane way, the fact that people are here illegally.
"I agree," Dean said. "I thought George Bush showed a lot of courage with his immigration package.
"We have to stop beating up on immigrants in this country. We are immigrants, and it's what built this country," he continued.
Asked about a "crisis of confidence" in government, neither man showed much fear. Rove said the president shouldn't worry much about falling poll numbers right now.
"It comes and it goes. The question is, 'Is he doing the right thing?' More importantly, will we look back and say he was doing the right thing?" he said.
Dean pointed out how people show low approval for the institution of Congress, yet so often re-elect their own representatives and senators.
"I think I reject the notion that there's a crisis of confidence," he said.
As with most 800-pound gorillas, though, the health care debate did eventually rear its ugly head. And as expected, there was little agreement. Rove said he didn't want government bureaucracy intervention in health care. Dean, a medical doctor, saw it differently.
"The only bureaucrats I've ever had tell me what I could or couldn't do was an insurance company bureaucrat," he said.
Rove also pointed out that while the debate over healthcare may be tiresome, he's glad we are at a point in our country's history where that can be the hottest issue.
"I'm glad passions are running high about what our healthcare should be, rather than sex or race," he said.
Another issue central to the healthcare debate is that of the national deficit. While both men want to see the deficit come down, they disagree on how things got like they are and what can be done to fix it.
"We worked hard to ratchet down spending. Now (under Obama) it's going to blow back up," Rove said.
Dean showed confidence in the current administration and placed blame on Bush's tax cuts.
"I think we're going to get through this," he said. "We had to stimulate the economy."
Friday's event marked the third debate between the two men, but the first on a college campus. Stinebrickner said he was honored that the first took place at DePauw.
The debaters, likewise, remained aware of their surroundings and made sure to advise their young audience.
Rove encouraged the students to "remember families, communities and serving something greater than ourselves."
"We have a responsibility in everything we do, to serve,' he added.
Dean also exhorted the students to remain involved.
"You cannot take a vacation from politics," he said. "You have to be always involved with politics."
"Our generation had its shot at transforming the world, and we did, for better or worse," he added. "Now it's your turn, until your children elect their first president."