The local reaction to the first presidential debate of the 2012 election was mixed, with the consensus that President Barack Obama under-performed in a conversation about domestic issues.
Republicans and Democrats each held their own debate viewing parties on Wednesday night. There were over 50 attendees at the Democrat party, which was held at a private home, said Blanca O’Leary, chair of the Pitkin County Democrats. The Republican party headquarters at the S-curve was so full that organizers had to refill food from the Hickory House three times, said Frieda Wallison, chair of the Pitkin County Republican Party.
As for how the candidates performed, the O’Leary and Wallison agreed only on the fact that Obama was more subdued in the first debate.
O’Leary said she wished Obama would have stressed Romney’s plan to lower taxes, cut regulation and turn Medicare into a voucher system. Obama isn’t known for being an aggressive debater, she said.
“I think that’s just President Obama’s style,” O’Leary said.
For Wallison, Obama’s performance was an obvious win for Romney.
Wallison scored last-minute tickets to the debate in Denver and attended with her husband Peter. Before the event, moderator Jim Lehrer told the audience to remain silent throughout, but afterward the crowd was verbose in conversations over who won, Wallison said.
“Afterwards there were people from the Romney side and people from the Obama side talking,” Wallison said. “And of course the Romney people were thrilled and delighted and the Obama people were dejected.”
A point of contention for both O’Leary and Wallison was a statistic Obama put forward during the debate. According to Obama, Romney’s tax plan calls for $5 trillion in tax cuts, which he recalled four times during the debate.
O’Leary agreed with Obama’s statistic and was shocked that Romney denied it, while Wallison said the claim was inaccurate.
Romney’s tax plan includes various provisions that preclude people from tapping into deductions if they are above a certain income bracket, Wallison said.
“I think Obama is getting confused with a tax-rate cut and a tax cut,” she added.
According to the Politifact, a news organization that fact checks political statements, Obama’s claim is half true, because the $5 trillion figure is cumulative over 10 years and accounts for only half of Romney’s plan. The plan includes a 20 percent reduction in all federal income tax rates and eliminating the Alternative Minimum Tax and the estate tax. The governor says he will offset those lost revenues by reducing tax deductions and eliminating loopholes, but he has never specified what those changes would be, Politifact notes.
Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland, a Democrat, also took issue with Romney’s unwillingness to fess up to the $5 trillion tax cut.
You can’t cut taxes by 20 percent and not experience an overwhelming tax reduction, Ireland said.
Ireland excused Obama’s performance, arguing that his loss was only superficial.
“I think Obama was right on the facts and not there on the style,” Ireland said.
On Wednesday night, the television screens at Brunelleschi’s that usually air sports games were tuned to Fox News for the debate. The eatery had received calls from people during the day asking if the restaurant was showing it, a waitress said.
As the candidates went back and forth sparring over tax hikes and Obamacare, Brunelleschi’s was full of individuals and couples watching in relative silence. A faint laugh went across the bar when Obama told Lehrer that he had five more seconds to speak before Lehrer interrupted him to say that he was running out of time. A few gasps were heard when Romney said as president he would have the government stop funding PBS.
After Obama made his final comments, the group gave the president a round of applause. Romney closed the debate with final words on the economy and one by one the restaurant-goers asked for their checks.