By Kate Simmons and Kate Winkle
The Rocky Mountain Collegian
The chatter of voices and crunch of paper food liners quieted as President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney addressed patrons of Avogadro’s Number from a large projector screen in the back room of the restaurant.
Meanwhile, the College Republicans at CSU and community members gathered in the Larimer County Victory Office for their own debate watch party and were greeted by a life-size cardboard cutout of Romney placed next to the television broadcasting the debate.
“It’s really great to get together — whatever side you’re on — and watch the debate. You can talk about things that one said, and have a verbal discourse about issues…,” said Kelsey Maez, president of the CSU College Democrats. “It can really provide a venue to answer questions people have.”
Economics major Tyler Marr, who attended the Republican watch party, said he thinks voters know very little about Romney’s foreign policy platform and that the debate helped reveal each candidate’s platform.
“I think if voters were still undecided about [Romney] on foreign policy they probably wondered what his policy would look like,” Marr said. “I think in that aspect the debate helped him sway undecided voters.”
For some attendees, the atmosphere of the watch party determined their attitudes toward the debate.
Kevin Davis, a student at Front Range Community College, came to Avogadro’s Number to spend time with his friends and play a debate drinking game, but ended up learning more about the candidates.
“We actually didn’t drink almost nearly as much as we thought. We all just got too much into the actual debate,” Davis said.
Both watch parties had their share of applause and groans as the candidates attempted to explain their policy positions.
Obama’s experience in office leaves Romney at a disadvantage when it comes to foreign policy, according to Maez.
“There are so many situations going on in various parts of the world and right now. We can’t afford to have someone who has not had any foreign policy experience,” Maez said. “We need to keep the efforts we’ve made and the strides we’ve made in foreign policy continuing.”
Marr disagreed with Maez.
He said that even though Romney has not had Obama’s experience as Commander in Chief, the debate allowed him to present his ideas to the American public and show that he is competent when it comes to foreign policy.
“I think the sitting president usually, if not always, has the advantage in a foreign policy debate,” Marr said. “I thought, for being a domestic expert, Mitt showed he’s very capable of handling the foreign policy side of the job.”
Fort Collins community member Sandra Gust said she was very disappointed that the candidates did not discuss the situation in Libya more. She said she would have liked to uncover what really happened in the Benghazi incident.
Marr agreed with Gust. He said he thinks Romney missed an opportunity to confront Obama about Libya.
“I think that he dispelled the myths that he’s a warmonger,” Marr said. “He had to do that because it’s kind of a blank critique you hear of him sometimes in the foreign policy department.”
According to Marr, Romney caught Obama off guard by mentioning the president skipping Israel in his opening tour.
“He made a strong point when he said that the president skipped Israel on the opening tour,” Marr said “I thought that was the one time in the debate, if there was one, that the president was caught off guard.”
Now that the debates are over, the candidates’ supporters weighed in on the experience. Each side claimed their candidate as the victor.
Emily Cordes, a junior history and political science major, said Romney performed strongly in the debates, especially the first, but that he won in the last debate by a narrower margin.
William Russel, the chair of Larimer County Democrats, thinks Obama was the overall winner in the debates.
“He laid low on the first debate but I think that was part of the plan,” Russel said. “It’d be un-presidential for him to get up there and bash the newbie right off the bat.”
The debate series successfully highlighted the candidates’ differences on issues important to Americans, according to Maez.
“I think both candidates broached each campaign platform and continued to show there are two very different candidates,” Maez said. “Americans can fall on either side of the issues.”
Politics Beat Reporter Kate Winkle and Student Life Beat Reporter Kate Simmons can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org