Many Charlotte-area residents uttered cheers and jeers around television screens Wednesday as they gathered at watch parties for the first presidential debate.
For some, the 90-minute faceoff between President Barack Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney offered a good chance to compare the candidates on issues such as the economy, health care and deficit reduction.
It was probably not surprising that, in the end, partisan supporters felt their man performed better.
At the Dilworth Neighborhood Grille, where local Republicans gathered, Matthew Ridenhour got in front of the crowd and shouted:
Obama went down Romney OWNED the debate, said Ridenhour, who is running for county commissioner.
But Obamas supporters defended the presidents performance at Charlotte Energy Solutions near uptown.
I think the president won, hands down, said Diane Frederick. He was excellent; he gave details, and he pointed out all of Romneys weaknesses.
The Obama campaign said its volunteers and supporters planned more than 150 watch parties across the state. Romneys campaign hosted 22 events in North Carolina, including an overflow crowd of local Republicans and others at the Dilworth restaurant, which featured the debate on multiple screens.
Romney supporters were clearly energized by the former Massachusetts governors performance. Attendees applauded Romneys remarks on small businesses and his criticism of Obamas health care plan. They groaned and even booed many of Obamas comments.
Scott Carlisle quoted a tweet from liberal comedian Bill Maher: I cant believe Im saying this but Barack Obama does need a TelePrompTer, he said.
Michael Bitzer, a political science professor at Catawba College, said he believed it would take a lot for the debate to cause a major shift in the dynamic of the race. He said the biggest impact could come by energizing each partys base.
They need to hear from their candidate a kind of reinforcement of what they already believe in, said Bitzer. He later said: They need the reinforcement of needing to take time to cast my ballot.
At the Obama party, viewers broke out in heavy applause and nodded their heads at times as the president spoke. A jab at Romneys tax plans drew some of the loudest cheers while some asked How? as Romney talked in his closing statements about adding 12 million jobs if he were to be elected.
The event drew more than 80 attendees, the bulk of which signed up for volunteer spots for the campaign after watching the debate.
Linda Brunson, who attended the Obama party, said Romney failed to offer specifics about how he would accomplish his campaign promises.
Romney still doesnt have a plan, she said. His whole thing is everything Obama did, Im going to undo.
Obama carried North Carolina by 14,000 votes in 2008, which was his narrowest margin of victory in any state. In Mecklenburg, he won nearly 62 percent of the vote.
North Carolina remains among nine battleground states, and polls show the race is dead-even here.
For example, Rasmussen Reports released a survey Wednesday showing Romney with a 51- to 47-percent edge over Obama. But the New Jersey polling firm said it was now considering North Carolina a tossup instead of a Leans Romney state because the president gained two points in the past month, narrowing the gap with Romney.