Verdict of the faithful in Boone's Tavern

Fri, Oct 5, 2012, 01:00

The president was being called professorial – not bad in a university, but not good for winning elections

IT WAS 40 minutes into the debate before Boone’s Tavern erupted. What drew the big cheer? “Obamacare . . . means insurance companies can’t jerk you around, and your children can stay on your insurance till they are 26 years old.” For students, this was a real issue.

It was like watching a football match, the pub crowd was so quiet and intensely focused. “Obama is the only one telling the truth, Romney is making it up as he goes along, he’s just plain lying,” Paul, an Obama campaigner, muttered to me, his Obama-Biden sign crumpled in his hand.

Admittedly, this was a partisan crowd. Boone’s tavern was reserved by the Democrats’ central Denver campaign team, and most people there, including me, were volunteer canvassers deeply committed to their team.

They came in all ages, shapes and colours. The signs many held told their story: “Students for Obama”, “Latinos for Obama”, even “Nurses for Obama”.

Earlier that day supporters in lime-green T-shirts gathered for a pre-debate rally in a local park. The rapper Will.i.am, a long-time Obama supporter, was expected to perform. He didn’t sing but instead spoke soberly about the change that Obama had already brought and the work to be done in the next term.

The crowd was momentarily disappointed, but good humour was restored as we walked towards the debate venue, chanting all the while. The sun shone, passersby cheered, everyone was having a good time.

Well, almost everyone. At the rally I came across a couple of women sitting on the grass looking decidedly glum. They were nervous about the debate. “Romney doesn’t have to do much to be declared the winner. Everyone expects too much from Obama.”

One woman told me she hadn’t been able to eat all day, she was so nervous. As the debate wrapped up, the supporters in Boone’s were muted.

A student held her head in her hands during Romney’s closing words. There were a few complaints. “Obama should have attacked more, he should have called Romney on his lies.” But also support. “

He was presidential, he didn’t stoop to Romney’s level, he explained his policies and treated the American people like adults.” On the TV the media commentator was describing Obama as professorial – not a bad thing in a university setting, but not good for winning elections. Most people in Boone’s, though, were ignoring the screens and were finishing their drinks, getting ready to head home.

The presidential rally was planned for early next morning, and people had jobs and classes to worry about.

Leaving Boone’s, I walked down the street past Denver University. DebateFest was closing up. While the candidates were debating in the sports arena, outside DU had organised a festival, with “Issue Alley” featuring booths where local issues were discussed, and where there was food and live entertainment – and, of course, giant screens to watch the debate.

Tickets were sold out long in advance, and the area had been crowded all day with families and students. By now a bitter chill had set in, and only the hardiest students remained, engaged in post-debate analysis.

The students on campus, like their peers elsewhere, are Obama supporters by a wide margin. The chalk graffiti on the brick paths of the university is decidedly one-sided: “Gobama” , “Obama 2012” and, my favourite, “Romney is a rich loser”.

It was hard to find anyone with a good word for Romney.

“Maybe he won the debate but it’s fake, it just shows that he’ll say anything to get elected.”

I asked them if the debate had caused any of them to change their views. Not a single person said yes.

Like most Americans in this polarised election, they had already given their allegiance to their tribe, and the debate just reconfirmed them in that belief.


EMER MacDOWELLis a Dublin-born software developer who moved last month to Denver. She is a volunteer with the Obama campaign