Nonpartisan debate watch parties draw enthusiastic crowds

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Wednesday, October 3, 2012 - 11:06pm

Baton Rouge residents listened intently to the presidential debate Wednesday night. They knew the exact topics they wanted both candidates to discuss, because the problems were near to their hearts.

But they didn't expect to hear something that might change their opinions.

Full crowds packed the Journalism Building at LSU, Galvez Plaza in downtown, and many other locations around the city. Those two offered the promise of non-partisan crowds, which gave many attendees a sense of comfort.

"Coming here," said Garrett Clawson, an LSU student, "especially as a freshman, I didn't come from a high school that had a lot of politically interested people, and so I live just being around people that share my passion, share my interest."

People started gathering well before the debate began to get a good viewing spot.

"I mean, I'm excited," said Keith Espadron. "I actually haven't seen this much hype around a debate in a very long time."

For those who watched downtown, the setting added a different feel, and provided opportunities they might not get by watching on their own.

"I like it cause it's nice scenery, it's outside, it's different," said Megan Lawrence. "It beats sitting on the couch, sitting at home, doing nothing watching it. And I can be out and I can mingle and I can network."

But when the candidates finally took the stage, everyone had clear expectations.

From Mitt Romney, viewers wanted to see more details about his plans, feeling that he had been too vague to that point in the campaign.

"I think that if we don't get them (Wednesday), we'll definitely get them in the upcoming debates," Espadron said, "because I think there's going to be a lot of pressure on him."

"That's what he needs to win," Clawson said. "He needs to lay out what he's going to do to specifically address these problems."

People who plan to vote for President Obama said they thought he was still the right person to turn the economy around.

"People are hurting, and people want to see a change," said Alfred Buckley. "And I think it'll happen. If we give the president four more years."

But even with their level of interest in the debate, viewers on Wednesday said there was nothing either candidate could do to sway their votes.

"Absolutely not," Espadron said. "I'm supporting Barack Obama 100% and there's nothing Mitt Romney can say."

The next presidential debate will take place Tuesday, October 16th. But first, Vice President Joe Biden and Romney's running mate, Paul Ryan, will debate on Thursday, October 11th.

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