It didn’t take long before Jason Pretchel walked out of Cole’s Bar in Logan Square minutes after 8 p.m. last night, just as the second presidential debate at Long Island’s Hofstra University got underway.
Both candidates’ response to the very first question were enough to drive Pretchel, 25, from the viewing party at the back of the bar, which was organized by non-partisan political involvement organization Chicago Votes.
“The first question was a twenty-year-old college kid asking both candidates ‘Hey, I’m about to graduate and people are worried I won’t get a job after college. What do I do?’ and both of them launch into talking points, neither of which answer the question. So I kind of just walked out.”
Pretchel did eventually return to view the rest of the debate, but said he was initially disappointed that both candidates were trying to pass off memorized talking points as answers.
The Logan Square resident writes an international politics blog—culturebore.com—and contributes to Gaper’s Block, so he could be considered fairly engaged in the political process. That sort of familiarity seemed standard at Cole’s last night.
“I’m totally willing to go anywhere,” a patron said leaving the bar, “as long as they have the debate on.”
The repeatedly self-professed liberal crowd, which had the bar packed to its 100 person capacity 20 minutes into the debate, was hoping President Obama would have more fight in him than his first bout with Mitt Romney.
“I think if he didn’t, it’d be like trying to throw [the election,]” said Lakeview resident Allison Beneficio. She, along with a number in attendance, said Obama needed to display the type of poise he has in the past, just not against Romney.”He seems charismatic,” Beneficio said, “but for some reason that seems lost when he’s debated. I don’t think that’s him.”
The atmosphere of the bar was fairly non-contentious and casual prior to the debate, but heckling was underway as soon as the first question was being answered. This continued intermittently, with jeers primarily at Romney, but also when viewers seemed convinced that Obama didn’t sufficiently address issues on women’s rights or immigration policies.
Still, leaving Cole’s for good around 9:40 p.m., Pretchel said he was glad he returned to view the rest of the debate. Both candidates still leaned heavily on their talking points, he said, but he felt more questions were answered more adequately and directly.
So, did Obama give a better performance than last time around? Did he win? The attendees leaving Cole’s seemed to think so on both counts.
Scott Kane, a Logan Square resident and a second year law student at Northwestern University, said Obama did what he needed to, but he was skeptical of the
debates themselves.“I think Obama won, but I think expectations were pretty low after his first effort,” Kane said. “I always find these debates a little underwhelming, because it becomes this battle of empty platitudes and half-truths. These debates seem to be more about bombastic posturing between these two guys.”
Even if that’s the case, Kane said he thought Obama conducted himself more ably than previously. It seemed the crowd at Cole’s got what they were looking for.
“I think he obviously felt compelled to step it up,” Pretchel said. “He got at least to where he needed to be in terms of debate performance tonight.”