The narrative among commentators casts Mitt Romney as the victor over President Barack Obama in the first presidential debate. But ideastream’s Nick Castele reports that wasn’t the reaction at a debate-watching party in strongly Democratic Cleveland Heights.
LEHRER: “The audience here in the hall has promised to remain silent.”
Moderator Jim Lehrer’s rules may have applied to the audience in Denver, but they certainly didn’t here in Cleveland Heights.
More than 240 people ate and drank, and sometimes cheered and hollered, packed around several big-screen TVs under the dim lights of Nighttown jazz club. The event was sponsored by online news site Cleveland Heights Patch.
The crowd was decidedly Democratic, cheering Obama and booing Romney.
Even moderator Jim Lehrer took some flack from this Cleveland audience. Take when Romney talked right over him while he grasped for control.
AUDIENCE: “Cut him off, Jim Lehrer, come on!”
One of the biggest applause lines came near the end of the debate, when Obama accused Romney of giving in to the far right wing of the GOP.
OBAMA: “When it comes to his own party during the course of this campaign, (he) has not displayed that willingness to say, “No,” to some of the more extreme parts of his party.”
Already, analysts have described Romney’s performance as sharp and aggressive, while calling Obama’s detached. But Cleveland resident Joyce Hairston said Obama came off as cool, while Romney sounded whiny.
HAIRSTON: “He’s showing himself to have an obnoxious, pushy personality.”
Shaker resident Gary Caldwell said he thought Obama did better, but Romney’s performance still surprised him.
CALDWELL: “Romney was very polished. He was more polished than I thought he was going to be, actually.”
Partway through the debate, Cleveland lab technician Tisha Barker pulled out a notebook and began writing.
BARKER: “I wrote down, ‘What about Medicaid?'”
She said she’s not satisfied with either campaign’s plans for people with low-incomes. She started the night undecided. She said she left feeling just the same.
Brian Bull was in Fairview Park to hear the Republican take on the debates.