Chicago debate watch parties draw rowdy crowds

October 17, 2012

Tricia Bobeda and Mariam Sobh

(Tricia Bobeda/WBEZ)
Republicans gathered at Mayne Stage in Rogers Park to watch the presidential debate on Tuesday night.
(Tricia Bobeda/WBEZ)
Pete Colombo shouts at the screen at a GOP debate watch party in Rogers Park on Tuesday night.

At the Mayne Stage theater in Rogers Park, a rowdy crowd cheered Mitt Romney, booed President Barack Obama and shouted at the moderator as they watched the second presidential debate on a 22-foot screen.

About a hundred people gathered in the North Side neighborhood at the Chicago Republican Party’s official debate watch party on Tuesday night.

West Avondale resident Angel Trichak said the town hall format made for a more interesting debate.

“The debate was very dynamic,” Trichak said. “Both candidates were alive and I think they were very to the point. I like what each had to say about the questions that were asked and both put up a good fight.”

Trichak said she’s still a Romney supporter, but that Obama improved in the second debate.

“In this debate [Obama] was much more alive and had a little more fire into his conversations,” Trichak said.

Adam Robinson of the Chicago Republican Party said Romney thrived in the town hall format.

“He won because he had better ideas,” Robinson said. “As he’s had in the first debate, as he’s had in this debate, as he’ll have in the next debate.”

GOP leaders from around the state attended the watch party.

State Treasurer Dan Rutherford joked about the debate party location while trying to fire up the Republican crowd.

They were watching from the 49th ward - where Obama got about 90 percent of the vote in 2008.

Just down the block at the Heartland Cafe, Democrats gathered for their own watch party and organized volunteers to make calls to undecided voters in Iowa.

Meanwhile, on the South Side, more than two dozen people gathered at a diner in Hyde Park to watch Mitt Romney debate with their neighbor. President Barack Obama has strong support in the South Side neighborhood where he still owns a home.

What started off as a boisterous crowd at popular local hang out Clarke’s, turned almost silent by the end of the evening.

Lola Flores, a Hyde Park resident and debate watcher, said she’s still with Obama despite last week’s poor debate performance.

“He seemed more engaged," Flores said. "I guess he heard everybody's complaint.”

While customers listened and watched the debate on large flat screen televisions, the wait staff also paused to take in the conversation and at times quietly cheered when Obama seemed to make a point they agreed with.

Ernest Ledbetter, one of the patrons at Clarke's, said he’s disappointed in some of Obama’s past policies, but hasn’t given up on him yet.

"I don’t agree with everything that he’s done, however I don't think four years is a fair enough survey of what he can do," Ledbetter said. "I think the first four years was more so damage control and cleanup and the next four years can be a good evaluation of who he is as a president."

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