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Alexandria and Arlington Debate Watch Parties: Cheers and Boos Abound

Fervent supporters of candidates on the presidential and vice presidential level gathered in Arlington and Alexandria for the past two debates, comparing debates and cheering on their preferred candidate.

Laporta's restaurant in Old Town was not just another night at the bar during the vice presidential debate watch party Thursday night. Beers were quietly nursed and mouths were open to sip or to express opinions during the debates.

Olufolajimi Ige, the political engagement director at the Northern Virginia Urban League Young Professionals Network, a nonpartisan network, sat with friends and watched Vice President Joe Biden and Paul Ryan debate over foreign policy and social issues.

“The thing that I enjoy about this debate compared to the last debate was that the candidates were engaging each other a little bit more," he said. "I feel that they were more concrete and their positions were more crystallized in comparison to the last debate. “

At the same table, Crystal Turner, a employee at George Mason University and Obama supporter, said she was open to hearing the Republican side but felt that during both presidential and vice presidential debates, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan didn’t present solid facts to support their arguments.

“I think Biden is very consistent,” she said. “If he has something to say he says it, and he supports what he says. Comparing the two debates, I think Obama was less on the attack side and he presented what he needed to say and definitely had the facts to support that and Romney not so much. “

With both parties competing to dominate swing voters in Virginia, most of voters' reactions to the presidential and vice presidential debates for the past two weeks in Arlington and Alexandria have been along traditional party lines, with Democrats supporting President Obama and Republicans supporting former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Michele Tennery,  a volunteer for the Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan campaign headquarters in Arlington, said she will try to reach out to more independent voters as Election Day nears and will watch all the debates.

“We need to keep making calls,” she whispered to another volunteer before the vice presidential debate watch party began at headquarters on Thursday.

“I loved the first debate,” she said. “I thought Mitt Romney was fabulous. Clearly he outshined President Obama. He was very decisive in the way he spoke and I think he put a lot of clarity in who he was as a candidate and changed the narrative of the campaign. He was able to in his own words to let people know who he was and what he stands for.” 

At the Carlyle Club in Alexandria, over 125 Obama supporters as well as members and guests of the Alexandria Democratic Committee attended the second annual Best Chef Alexandria restaurant contest and first presidential debate watch party.

“One of the lines you’ll hear from the opponents on the other side is that if you vote for the Democrats, you’re voting for all the same person," said Alexandria Democratic Committee Chair Dak Hardwick. "I can tell you for a fact that it is not true."

At the Mad Rose Tavern in Clarendon during the first presidential debate, members of the Arlington County Republicans gathered to show their support for the GOP. Voices rose and booed as Obama spoke and glasses clinked to Romney.

Charles Hokanson, chair of the Arlington County Republicans, said over 175 people attended the watch party in Clarendon. Hokanson has been volunteering for Mitt Romney since 1994 when he ran against former Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy, he said.

“The first half of this debate, the president was on the defensive constantly and not doing a particular stellar job of being able to defend his administration and the points that Romney was raising.”

Hokanson said during the next presidential debate discussing foreign policy, he would like Romney to explain how he’s going to make America strong and credible again in the world.

“A terrorist attack on 9/11 on the anniversary when they had ample warnings that this was happening did not have adequate security in the Libyan Embassy,” he said. “I mean it’s incredible that this administration acts on the belief that Obama’s personal popularity is going to be adequate to defend America and our troops abroad and our interest abroad."

Olufolajimi said he liked all the candidates and found them to be extremely intelligent, accomplished individuals.  

“I felt that it was like a football game,” he said. "I get the sense that as the debates go on they (the candidates) will be able to see things as a whole.  They’ve played two quarters. It’s half time right now and looking forward to see what the next two debates have to offer.”

Obama and Romney will square off once again Tuesday at 9 p.m. The debate is at Hofstra University in New York.

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