At a partisan Presidential-debate “watch party” held in West Oak Lane on Wednesday night, one man donned a battery operated T-shirt that flashed light upon an image of President Barack Obama.
“Four more years!,” chanted Kinard Lang of Cheltenham, who purchased the shirt at the Democratic National Convention.
Lang was among more than 100 people who gathered at Relish Restaurant, just steps away from the Obama campaign field office in one direction and state Rep. Dwight Evans’ local office on Ogontz Avenue in the other, to watch the first of three debates between President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
The party was one of 300 across Pennsylvania sponsored by Organizing for America – Pa., but some attendees told NewsWorks they were interested in learning more about Romney.
“I want to hear from Romney’s standpoint,” said Martini Shaw of Society Hill, who deems debates as essential to learning about the candidates. “What does he have to say? He appears to be a very smart businessman.”
Shaw was joined by his friend, Michael Collins.
“After four years, I feel like I know Obama, and Romney, he seems like a bright individual,” said Collins, from Springfield, Delaware County. “My question is, are they going to make an impact? I want to know more about their plans. It’s like playing Russian Roulette; you see the outside, but you don’t know what you’ll get.”
Nikkisha Twyman of West Oak Lane said she attended the event to hear the candidates stances on reducing unemployment.
“I’ve been unemployed. I’m 50-years-old and I’ve been trying to educate myself,” said Twyman, who is trying to start up a catering business. “If you’re not qualified for jobs, what can you do?”
For most of the debate, the crowd remained quiet, except for reactions to the few “zingers” exchanged during a debate for which a “Romney won” consensus emerged in the immediate aftermath.
When Obama remarked “under Gov. Romney’s definition, there are a whole bunch of millionaires and billionaires who are small businesses. Donald Trump is a small business,” the crowd erupted into applause and cheers. Sherrell Lyons of West Oak Lane was among those clapping.
“I think the taxes that Romney wants to put on small businesses are beyond the margin,” said Lyons, who has concerns about Romney’s proposed economic plan.
West Oak Lane residents Justin Reeves and fiancée Wyniqua Ridgley said the debate gave them an outlook on how the candidates will fare on Nov. 6.
“Romney did have some points, but he’s not really getting into answers,” said Reeves. “If you look at the tonality of it, Obama is under control in this debate. He’s confident and you can see it. He’s on the offensive side and Romney is on the defensive side.”
However, Emmanuel Joyner and Sonny Cherry of West Oak Lane said they were disappointed that the debate focused on domestic issues and lacked a foreign policy discussion. (Foreign policy is the focus of the candidates’ debate on Oct. 22 in Boca Raton, Fla.)
“It seems as though President Obama isn’t exhibiting the precision and focus tonight that I’m used to,” said Joyner. “I’d like to see him touch on more worldly issues.”
Said Cherry, “I liked seeing Romney be more open, more verbal, than I’m accustomed.”
Republican candidate’s response
Though he wasn’t at the West Oak Lane event, NewsWorks asked John Featherman, a Republican running against U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, to send post-debate reaction, figuring it would differ from that at a campaign-organized watching party.
“The presidential election is President Barack Obama’s to lose and he might very well be on that path. There is no reason why he should have lost tonight’s debate,” Featherman emailed late Wednesday night. “He could have nailed Romney on the 47 percent [comment recorded at a fundraiser], on Republican obstructionism, on Romney’s flip flopping, or on Romney’s taking credit for everything good that happened in Massachusetts.
“But instead, Obama appeared annoyed that he had to show up, and everything went downhill. He stuttered, looked angry, forced clearly fake smiles, and was humorless. He could have used [Bill Clinton’s] charm and magnetism. Instead, it was Romney’s night. Obama’s now in trouble.”