For Republican supporters of Mitt Romney in Denver—site of Romney’s triumph in the first debate over the president two weeks ago—Tuesday night’s town hall was marked with energized anticipation. Romney had rescued them from a lackluster summer, and they were ready to celebrate even before moderator Candy Crowley introduced her first Town Hall participant. Around 50 people came to The Tavern downtown straight after work for a debate-watching party held by the Romney campaign. It began at 7 p.m. for those of us in Denver, which meant one thing to these voters: Happy Hour.
Susan Rutherford and Brian Wong, friends who both work for a health-care company based here, sat in the middle of the bar eating appetizers across from a wall of seven flat-screen TVs, all turned to Fox News. Rutherford said the first debate had not only energized voters, but probably tilted more undecided voters into the Romney camp as well. “They saw more of the truth of who Romney is,” she says. “I think it showed that he’s a real person—compassionate and warm”—unlike the way the Obama campaign had portrayed him. Wong, who says he didn’t vote in the last election, likes living in a swing state. “It’s really exciting to be at the ground zero of true American democracy,” he says.
The crowd was mostly Republicans, though some say they didn’t vote for John McCain last time around, who believed Romney won last time not just on style—he looked like a commander when he faced Obama in Denver—but on substance. “Any candidate with GOP ideals is what we need right now,” said Hayley Faith, who is originally from Atlanta and is about to vote in her second presidential election. Ryan Scott, a 28-year-old who works in construction said Obama “seemed like he was asleep behind the mic the entire time” during the first debate.
The crowd hushed as the debate began. Candy Crowley, the CNN anchor who will be the only woman to moderate a presidential debate this year, was on stage, reminding the crowd in the Hofstra University auditorium not to make any noise during the event.
But the crowd in Denver was under no such restriction:
“I know what it takes to get the economy running,” Romney says in response to the first question from a college student.
“Jobs have been too scarce,” says Romney.
The crowd claps.
Obama: “I created 5 million jobs.”
Obama: “What Romney says just isn’t true..”
Romney: ”This has not been Mr. Oil, or Mr. Gas, or Mr. Coal.”
Romney: North Dakota!
Yay! (For some reason.)
Obama: “When I took office, the economy was on the verge of collapse.”
Call the Wambulance!
Toward the end of the night, the crowd tapered off, but not because Romney was losing. It was more about—well, debates are long.
Romney: I hired women!
Obama: Romney is for the top 2 percent.
Crowley: “Governor Romney, I’m sure you’ve got something to say about that.”
Obama: “Big Bird!”
Obama: My daughter…
Here we go!
Romney China doesn’t play fair!
Obama: I don’t believe in big government:
Tony Zangoglia, a 28-year-old mechanical engineer, didn’t vote in 2008; neither candidate inspired him. He’s a moderate Republican, philosophically, but independent-minded, and this election cycle, he was waiting to see some character. Romney showed it to him October 3, and he thought Romney won tonight again. At least, for anyone watching, he says. “I think, Obama gave a good fight for people who think politics are what’s represented on Saturday Night Live.”
Others in the crowd thought Obama might have done better. Some thought the moderate was more biased than previous moderators. Some thought she was less. But everyone in this crowd used a word to describe the town hall meeting that no one used last time the candidates’ met. They called it a debate.