Nervous Durango voters find that beer and Twitter help

Durangoans judged Tuesday's presidential debate through their personal partisan lenses.

Several locals kept up a stream of live commentary on Twitter during the debate.

K.D. Cox, a Fort Lewis College student who supports Mitt Romney, was put off by Obama's demeanor in the first half hour of the contest.

“Seriously @BarackObama? Stop the smirks and the shakes, you look so weak doing that. @MittRomney looks so much more presidential,” she tweeted.

But the same attitude pleased Obama supporters, who worried that the president was too passive in his first debate.

“One helluva debate @BarackObama glad to see the gloves are off!” tweeted John Trousdale.

Others were not pleased with some of the answers from either candidate, including Porsha Harrison.

“Did they answer the question on assault rifles? Oh you sneaky snakes,” she tweeted.

Outside Twitter, locals began the night with less bravado.

Harried Democrats, mostly young, huddled together in the back room of Carver Brewing Co., nervously gripping unsipped beers as the debate began. Anxious, one youth stared numbly at the television screen, oblivious to his comely comrade's repeated attempts to make conversation.

As Romney discussed the economy, one dismayed man commanded the Republican to “sit his” rump “down,” while the others darkly muttered.

In the debate's first 20 minutes, the strain grew more palpable every time Romney interrupted Obama and whenever Obama lost his fluency and stammered, with one woman whispering, “Come on, Obama.”

They seemed to be experiencing the debate alternately as a great comedy routine and an existential crisis worthy of despair and rage.

But as soon as Obama said, “that's not true, Governor Romney,” and began politely brawling with his rival for the right to speak, pleasant relief washed over the crowd at Carver's, rallied by the president's new – if still brittle – machismo. It grew louder and rowdier every time Obama and Romney went head to head, emboldened by the president's pugilism, until Romney and Obama began discussing “whose pension was bigger,” and the crowd, despite its laughter, was lost to processing the homoerotic undertones.

Obama's mentions of the Republican primaries, math, the numbers 14 percent, 47 percent, and 98 percent, women in Colorado, the commander in chief and Hillary Clinton had particularly aphrodisiac effects on the room.

When Obama said, “millions of women rely on Planned Parenthood,” an older man said, “hallelujah” as another woman nodded vigorously, eyes closed, saying, “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” and younger women let out war whoops.

When Candy Crowley, the moderator, fact-checked Romney live, the room erupted in a cheer so deafening that pints of beer rattled and spilled.

Around the state, however, reviews of Obama's performance were less clear-cut.

Colorado voters who answered a snap poll in the minutes after the debate gave a slight edge to Obama.

The survey by Public Policy Polling, which conducts polls for Democrats, found 48 percent of Colorado respondents thought Obama won and 44 percent Romney. But 58 percent of independent voters gave the win to Obama and 36 percent to Romney.

The presidential campaigns also trotted out their Colorado surrogates to claim victory.

Former Republican Gov. Bill Owens said Obama offered the same old big-government programs. “As we saw at tonight's debate, Mitt Romney has a plan to turn around the economy, create millions of new jobs, strengthen the middle class, and get the country on its feet,” Owens said in a prepared statement.

Colorado Democratic Party chairman Rick Palacio zeroed in on the exchange about the Middle East.

“When the discussion turned to the recent attack in Libya, President Obama seized responsibility as our leader and our commander in chief, while Mitt Romney attempted to trot out a talking point that as immediately fact-checked as false. On countless issues, this has been the pattern we've seen in this election,” Palacio said in a prepared statement.

cmcallister@durangoherald.com

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