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The Morning After

blog debateTales from the Democrats' debate viewing party

If you like being in a large room full of Democrats who support President Barack Obama, the newly remodeled Hotel Paradox on Ocean Street was the place to be on Wednesday night. About 400 people gathered for a “debate watch party” sponsored by the Santa Cruz County Democratic Central Committee (DCC) and the local Obama for America campaign organization. Although the crowd was mostly attentive throughout the debate (which was projected on a huge screen with a good sound system), there was a live, on-going audio barometer of approval and disapproval with periodic yells and applause mixed with boos and hisses. At the end of the debate, reactions were mixed.

Comments from the crowd following the debate seemed to be generally reflective of disappointment with Obama’s performance. This reporter overheard comments like “Obama played it a bit too cool, he missed some real opportunities to hit back,” and “Sadly, Romney came across more human than usual … Obama wasn’t at the top of his game.”

The debate was followed by a panel discussion that featured three prominent local Democrats: former DCC chair and newly elected County Supervisor Zach Friend, Santa Cruz City Council candidate Richelle Noroyan, and former long-time city council member, career community organizer and UC Santa Cruz lecturer Mike Rotkin. Comedian and producer of Planet Cruz Comedy Richard Stockton moderated this post-debate discussion.

“Since the Obama campaign has done such a good job of defining Romney’s weaknesses and inconsistencies over the last several months,” Friend said after the debate, “the bar was set exceptionally low for Romney tonight … all he really had to do was show up and speak in complete sentences to improve his standing in the polls. Because Romney didn’t make any catastrophic blunders … Let’s not be surprised if the media gives a win to Romney.”

Rotkin explained that sometimes the candidate and party leadership are not always in perfect sync, citing the 2008 John McCain campaign as an example, but in Romney’s case this year, he said they seem to be “a perfect match for each other.” The key question the debate left for Rotkin was, “Are the American people going to believe this ‘re-boot’ of Romney we saw tonight? That is, will they believe what he said tonight, which is not what he said last week, and probably not what he will be saying next week?”

Noroyan agreed that the lack of any big gaffes on Romney’s part probably gave him something of an advantage, but said “he was still not believable."

The DCC and local Obama for America campaign used the event as an opportunity to recruit more volunteers for activities like voter registration (the last day to register is Oct. 22), phone banking and precinct walking. The DCC has planned a “Statewide Day of Action” for Saturday, Oct. 13. The local portion will begin at 10 a.m. at DCC headquarters, 740 Front St., Ste. 165 in the Galleria mall. Learn more at cruzdemocrats.org.

What did you think of the first presidential debate? Let us know in the comments below.

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