Wednesday, February 27, 2008 at 6:05 AM
Last night’s presidential debate brought more than 15 hundred people to Cleveland State University to see Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton debate. But, across Northeast Ohio, several partisan and non-partisan groups watched in restaurants, college dorms, and bars as each candidate tried to distinguish themselves from one another. Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama . In nearby Rocky River, folks huddled in the back room of a local tavern to watch the fireworks. ideastream®’s Tasha Flournoy has more.
In a party room at the back of the Beachcliff Tavern, you couldn’t really tell who supported Obama and who supported Clinton. At least not by appearance. About two dozen teen-age to middle-age men and women filled the neighborhood bar for the Rocky River Democratic Club’s debate watch. Some attendees wore name tags with Obama or Hillary written below their own names, but most came just intent on listening closely to the debate. Aside from the occasional laugh or cellphone ring, all that could be heard were the two televisions on the wall.
But at the first commercial break, Andy Bemer, Rocky River’s law director had something to say.
Andy Bemer: He is negotiating from a position of power. I think Hillary is on the defense.
Bemer said he was also frustrated when the two candidates spent 16 minutes bickering over their healthcare plans.
Andy Bemer: Universal healthcare is important, but for some reason neither of them would let the other side get the upper hand.
In fact, Bemer had a lot to say throughout the night and he even taunted a fellow club member who supports Hillary Clinton.
Andy Bemer: Who’s standing with Erika? Erika, it’s a long tree in the wind….
73-year-old Erika Pilisy says both candidates are qualified and are very similar. But when it comes down to making a choice, Pilisy says she’s choosing the woman. She complains that Clinton was destined to loose the debate from the onset.
Erika Pilisy: They said he won. She was setup not to. ME: What do you mean she was setup? Erika Pilisy: When a woman is assertive they call her a bitch. When a man is assertive they call him a hero. And that world is still here and right now I’m more aware than I have been before.
Yet viewpoints varied on how the debate ended up. Some were just happy to see their candidate at the debate table. Others occasionally yelled out “Fired Up!”, the Obama campaign cheer. Undecided voter Mike O’Shea was stunned by the candidates’ performances. O’Shea said Clinton left a bad taste in his mouth, and that has him leaning toward Obama.
Mike O'Shea: Acidic. I think it’s the way I could have characterized the way she came across tonight. She’s going to have to negotiate and cooperate with a lotta people—both sides of the aisle and in and outside of the border of The United States—and I think that she will not have the composure that is necessary for that. He will.
Scott Sanders is one of those who sees the merits in both Democratic candidates, and remains indecisive.
Scott Sanders: On Barack’s side I feel this sense that there can be a uniting factor. On the side of Hillary I think there’s this experience issue and the fact that she could hit the ground running with a team of folks that have been in place.
Looking forward, Sanders plans to watch some of the earlier debates again, and talk to friends to help him settle on a candidate. Right now he feels no pull toward either, he’s using every spare minute up until the vote next Tuesday.
Scott Sanders: So difficult decision, but I think either way it goes it’s going to be a great move forward from where we’ve been.
While these voters are sure to back one or the other democratic candidate, cities like Rocky River are a bit of a wild card. The West Side suburb is chock full of upper-middle class families who some would assume—from John McCain’s recent visit—are vastly Republican. But according to club president John Zuercher, more than 50 percent of residents are registered as Independents.
Tasha Flournoy, 90.3.