Pre-debate round-table projections, stomp speech talking points, party-driven dueling pundits – the first presidential debate of 2012 captivated millions in one of the most highly anticipated campaign events in decades.
President Barack Obama, the Democratic Party incumbent, and Republican Party challenger Mitt Romney traded verbal jabs on the economy, jobs and other domestic issues on Wednesday night (Oct. 3).
With big-time debates come debate-viewing parties. Much like a spirited sports-oriented gathering, debate-watching parties give Democrats and Republicans a place to gather and root for their teams. Memphis was no exception.
So, whose guy won? That depends on who you ask.
"I think President Obama was a bit subdued, but I don't think he lost the debate," said Linda F. Harris, a Democrat. "He could have brought up the '47 percent' comment and other things in Romney's campaign. But he didn't do that. I don't think anybody won."
The 47 percent comment is a reference to a secret taping of Romney's remarks about a percentage of the American people who "do not pay taxes" and "will never take responsibility for their own lives."
Local Republicans had a different take on the debate. Jan Tracer of Bartlett declared Romney the clear winner.
"We had a great party, lots of cheering for our candidate," said Tracer. "He was prepared on the issues, he challenged the president on his record, and the economy. Romney had facts and figures. This was a big moment for our campaign."
Televised pundits in both parties sparred point for point, rehashing debate highlights and low points.
Hilary Marsh, who considers herself an independent, attended a Republican viewing party, but did not share any of the enthusiasm.
"So really, what did Romney prove? He has practiced for months, told to be warm and human, and he continually spewed facts and figures, supposedly, that he memorized," said Marsh. "Some of those 'facts' were disproved right after the debate. It was a performance. That '47 percent' remark is the real Romney."
To some Democrats, President Obama appeared off his game.
"That clearly was not Mr. Obama's strongest performance," said Jeff Lewis in South Memphis. "He seemed tired and a lot less prepared than Romney. There was no big moment, actually kind of flat, I thought.
"They got us this time, but there are two more debates before the election," said Lewis. "President Obama doesn't like to lose. Look out! He's going to come out swinging next time."