Presidential debate watch parties in New York draw Obama supporters


Obama supporters gather in New York to watch the first presidential debate of 2012.


Jennifer Mattson

NEW YORK — Barack Obama supporters gathered at some 4,400 debate watch parties across the nation to view the first Presidential debate.

The parties are a testament to the campaign's ability to organize on a grassroots level using its website and through meet-up gatherings.

The first televised debate of the election, moderated by PBS’s Jim Lehrer at the University of Denver, was not the big win the Obama camp had hoped for.

Obama remained presidential, calm and collected while Romney was a bit more aggressive, at times talking over the PBS moderator, and attacking the President on taxes, Medicare and Social Security.

In New York, a traditional Democratic stronghold, there were over 200 debate watch parties at people’s homes, in bars, restaurants, bookstores and even the occasional candy shop.

Some the parties reflected their quirky, grass-roots origins with names like: “Three Sheets to the West Wing,” "Pete's Knock Em Sock Em Debate and Drinks Party” and "Tribeca for Change Watches Barack Send Romney Packing."

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So what was the verdict?

"I think President Obama wasn't as aggressive as he could have been but he has the advantage of telling the truth," said Bill Wolfsthal, a volunteer for the Obama campaign, who hosted 30 people in his Manhattan apartment to watch the debate.

Wolfsthal, 50, an associate book publisher, has worked as a volunteer for the campaign since 2008 and hosted the party after his weekly Wednesday night phone banking event.

"I think it was ridiculous Jim Lehrer let Romney keep talking [beyond his allotted time]," Wolfsthal said.

"Who won? I'll give this one to Romney" concluded Siciliana Trevino, 38, a video producer. However, she added "I could never vote for a man who wants to fire Big Bird let alone a party that suggests 'legitimate rape' is an effective form of birth control."

Trevino arrived two hours before the debate to help out with the phone bank, calling registered voters in Ohio, where the polls are open for early voting, encouraging them to cast their ballots sooner than later.

In all, the group called a total of 1,000 Ohio voters on Wednesday night.

Trevino said the reason she decided to volunteer for the President is her anger over Republican Congressman Todd Akin's recent controversial remarks about 'legitimate rape.'

"I think the stakes are very high for women in this election," she explained. Trevino heads to Pennsylvania this weekend to go door-to-door to register voters in the state.

Across the bridge in Brooklyn, Charlene Allen, 50, and her partner Liz Roberts, 46, opened up their home for the first time to about 20 neighbors in Cobble Hill.

"There were a lot of lies," Allen, said after the debate. "[Romney promised] 'I won't cut taxes on the wealthy,' which is exactly the opposite of what he's been saying. One person called this the etch-a-sketch candidate, he just erases what you don't like."

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"It's interesting because I think some of the folks were disappointed, I did not feel that way," Liz Roberts chimed in.

Should the president have been more forceful?

"I think it's really hard," the 46-year-old social worker continued. "The bar is so high for Obama, and so low for Romney and the pundits didn't give Obama credit for the things he is good at -- being factual, being clear and being accurate. We want him to fight, but we also want him to be smart, cool and steady."

Meanwhile in Boston: