Two Very Different Debate Watch Parties

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(Sacramento, CA)
Thursday, October 16, 2008

By: Steve Milne and Ben Adler

Inside the lounge of Sacramento’s Red Lion Inn, about two dozen John McCain supporters gathered to watch the debate. But this wasn’t where they originally planned to watch. That was supposed to happen at their headquarters. Until someone left a suspicious box there.

Thoren: "There was a bomb scare, or a package left. There were no markings on it."

David Thoren is a McCain supporter.

Thoren: "And all of a sudden we had to get out of there fast. So we all came here to the Red Lion."

It ended up being a false alarm.

But outside the local McCain headquarters on El Camino Avenue, where the package was left, Carl Burton with the Sacramento County Republican Party said the scare was just one example of what’s been a tumultuous campaign.

Burton: "It’s upsetting to see what some people’s passions do with them during a political contest. Like for instance what happened on Fair Oaks Boulevard is deplorable."

Burton’s referring to hate speech written on pro-Obama signs in Carmichael.

Back at the debate watching party at the Red Lion Inn, Veronica Briody says she thought Senator McCain did a good job.  Still, she says, he could have been tougher.

Briody: "He didn’t attack really strongly Obama the way he should have. But that’s okay. I love McCain anyways."

Juan Aguirre clapped several times for John McCain during the debate. But he has mixed feelings on how his candidate will do on Election Day.

Aguirre: "If you make an educated vote on our platform, I think we’re going to come out ahead by a landslide. The problem is I think there’s a little bit too much emotion going on right now. It has nothing to do with who has a better idea. Kind of like the roller coaster ride in the stock market. It’s just so emotional at this point."

But he and other debate watchers still hold out hope that McCain can still win.


The Obama watch party didn't have any unplanned diversions.  It was a jampacked Mason’s Restaurant in Downtown Sacramento last night.  But the couple hundred people of all ages and many backgrounds stayed mostly silent – except for when they heard Obama say something they liked …
… or McCain say something they didn’t.
Afterwards, Sacramento residents Susan Jedren, Nate Grundmann and Sierra Jennings said they liked hearing Obama talk about issues. 
Jedren: “I liked very, very much when Obama talked about health; when he talked about tax cuts for those who are under a quarter million dollars.”

Grundmann: “He was much better spoken.  He gave concrete examples.  He tended to at least start by answering the question that was asked.”

Jennings: “I really liked the fact that Obama made clear points about how he would help ppl like me go to college.”
Two volunteers who’ve already made phone calls or gone door to door in swing states said they tried to watch the debate as though they were undecided voters.  In fact, said Sacramento resident Mark Fahey, it was almost impossible not to. 
Fahey: “I often listen to any kind of discussion and consider how other people would hear the same thing.  So I definitely do it more now and did it more tonight than in previous debates.”
Winston Lancaster agreed, though by his own admission, that might've been a bit hard for him to do. 
Lancaster: “If you’re an Obama supporter, you’re gonna think he did better, and if you’re a McCain supporter, you’ll probably think he did better.”
And since this room was full of Obama voters, the verdict here was unanimous.