Economy hot topic at debate viewing parties in Tennessee
Posted: Wednesday, October 8, 2008 9:11 pm
By LUCAS L. JOHNSON II
Associated Press Writer
NASHVILLE (AP) — The economy was on the minds of those attending viewing parties Tuesday night as presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain debated for the second time.
Such parties were being held at various sites across the city as the two debated at Belmont University. Local Obama supporters gathered at his Davidson County headquarters for their official viewing party while McCain’s supporters were at a sports bar two blocks from the debate site where all but two of the two dozen television sets were tuned in to the debate.
Chris Davis, 23, a Belmont senior, was among 2,200 who watched the debate at a party at the Ryman Auditorium, the former home of the Grand Ole Opry country a few miles from the debate site. He wanted to hear more about the bailout of the country’s financial system.
“I think they addressed it in a roundabout way,” he said afterward. “I don’t think either of them gave a straight answer to that.”
An estimated 1,000 people, some of them with their dogs or children in strollers and wagons, clogged the streets outside Belmont’s Curb Event Center two hours before the debate began inside. However, the crowd subsided to around 120 after the debate began, watching it on a big-screen television on the campus quad.
Among the crowd were professional impersonators posing as President Bush, former President Clinton and Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. All three were besieged by people wanting to take their picture.
“What we’ve had all day is nothing but laughter and smiles,” said John Morgan of Orlando, Fla., impersonating Bush.
Vendors lined the street in tents, hawking hats, buttons and T-shirts.
One vendor sold hand creams and lotions to raise money for a local recovery center for ex-prostitutes and drug addicts.
At the Bongo Java coffee shop across the street from the debate site, a packed crowd cheered when the school rang the tower bell signaling the start of the debate, and cheered later when moderator Tom Brokaw mentioned Belmont.
Dee Anna Smith, 44, a cancer researcher, said she wanted more specifics about taxes.
“They didn’t answer some of the key questions on taxes that I would have like to have heard,” she said at the Ryman in the heart of the downtown honky-tonk district where she watched the debate among red, white and blue banners hung around the balcony.
It had rained earlier Tuesday but it quit as the debate began.
At Centennial Park, organizers fearing rain moved a viewing party there from the band shell to a covered pavilion.
Gionni Carr, a 23-year-old student from the University of Memphis, came to Nashville to get a chance to witness what he described as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
“I want to hear real answers,” Carr said. “I think because they’re taking questions from the audience, they aren’t going to be able to prepare answers. That’s what makes this more interesting.”
Associated Press Writer Kristin M. Hall contributed to this report.
On the Net:
Commission on Presidential Debates: http://www.debates.org/