It was a scene that’s not often seen at a nightclub: people sitting silently captivated by the message ringing from giant flat screen TVs. But it wasn’t the Tigers game that had people so focused at Club Hanger in Detroit Tuesday night, it was the second presidential debate.
The event, hosted by Highland Park NAACP President Pastor David Bullock, drew more than 80 people including a number of elected officials and Detroit business leaders.
Senator Bert Johnson (D-Detroit) attended the watch party and said he was pleased with the President’s performance. “That’s our president and he’s back,” Johnson said. “He’s energized, this is a good debate format for him. He’s standing up and delivering on the facts.”
Johnson added, “Many people said Romney won the first debate but I’d take the president’s substance any day over
Gov. Romney’s style points that don’t politically advance our cause.”
Others agreed that the town-hall style debate forum was a better fit for both candidates.
Detroit City Councilman Andre Spivey said both candidates came off very confident.
“I like this type of debate forum better,” Spivey said. “The president did much better than the first debate. His message was, ‘I am the president. I am here for the people. Spivey said Romney seemed confident and poised, but ultimately Obama was stronger. “I feel more confident now that he will succeed on Election Day.”
Bullock agreed. “I think the town hall forum played to Obama’s strengths as a public speaker,” he said. “Romney is also a great public speaker and I admire the quality of his voice but ironically you can sound good and not have sound substance. He falls flat when it comes to the facts. The president seemed comfortable, with facts in place and was assertive and intelligent.”
Business owner and former Detroit mayoral candidate Jerroll Sanders said she was disappointed with Romney’s response. “Romney did as he always does and avoided answers. The moderator had to ask him to answer questions,” she said. “The president came across very strong he was able to articulate his points.”
Another Detroit business owner, Charles Roper, said Obama was very aggressive and Romney took the hit. “The bully from the first debate got bullied tonight,” Roper said. “Gov. Romney sounded like a used car salesman saying the same thing over and over without giving any facts,” He said. “Tonight showed that Barack Obama is clearly intellectually superior to Romney.”
Aside from debate style, There were some remarks from Romney that raised the eyebrow of certain audience members.
When Romney pledged that he would label China as a currency manipulator on his first day in office and he accused China of computer hacking and stealing U.S. companies’ designs, and technology, one community activist, Denise Thomas, was shocked. “I’m amazed that he’s going after China in this debate. Does he want to start another cold war?” Thomas said.
Overall Thomas said she preferred the Obama’s performance. “The president was very assertive and clear. If Obama had come out like that in the fist debate this race would be over.”
There were other moments that drew surprise from debate watchers. One came when Romney responded to a question on immigration and admitted to being too preoccupied licking his wounds from his 2008 presidential defeat to influence immigration policy.
Ken Harris, President and CEO of the Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce, was surprised. “I can’t believe he said he got his butt kicked by John McCain … ‘licking my wounds’ you just don’t say that during a debate,” Harris said.
Harris said the contrast between Obama’s performance in the first debate was obvious.
“In the first debate he was more professorial,” Harris said. “Tonight he’s positioning his policies to be more user friendly. He’s more pointed to counter his opponent to make a clear choice between him ad Romney.”
The debate watch event, titled “Fight Night” was a success according to Bullock.
“I feel great,” he said as the event wrapped up Monday night. “We were up against the Tigers and limited parking but it’s been a great turnout and a great event encouraging folks to get involved and informed about the candidates.”
Bullock said he plans to host another watch party for the final presidential debate on October 22.