In the corner of the Merrill bowling alley bar, a handful of Mitt Romney supporters gathered to watch Tuesday evening’s second presidential debate. They mumbled under their breath at the television screen amidst a Tuesday night women’s bowling league, dartboards, and several neon bar signs.
Garth Swanson was just one voter there who said Romney is the candidate to solve problems the county faces.
“President Obama did a much better job than the first debate,” said Swanson. “But he was still a long way from winning.”
Swanson volunteers for the Republican Party of Lincoln County and spends about 14 hours a week campaigning. He wasn’t the only one who thought Romney did a better job than President Obama. Lincoln County Republican Party Treasurer Julie Stevenson was as impressed with the governor Tuesday, as she was after the first debate.
She does, however, worry people watch debates for the wrong reasons. “I just hope people will watch these for the issues and what the candidates want to do about them rather than for the ‘zingers,’” she commented.
About 20 minutes down the road in Wausau, around 25 members of the Democratic Party watched the debate at the Landmark Hotel downtown.
Dorothy Miller is a 72-year-old retiree, and disagreed that Romney “won” the debate.
While Obama may have appeared to have lost the first debate, she says, it's all strategy. Miller thought the president’s performance Tuesday contrasted well with his debating style two weeks ago.
“He’s a pragmatic centrist,” she said. “He focused on facts in the first debate and was more enthusiastic this time.” She says changing his demeanor worked well to demonstrate how he’s leading the country in the right direction.
Even though voters at the watch parties disagreed about the winner, most said this debate was better moderated than the first one.
Miller, who was a delegate for the Marathon County area at the Democratic National Convention this fall, said many in Wausau cheered when the candidates were “called out” for being off topic.
“I don’t know who ‘won,’” she said. “It’s not like a football game even thought most people view it that way. It’s a chance to be informed. I hope I’m not the only one who feels that way.”
This story is part of Wisconsin Public Radio's Road to November series. Reporters Maureen McCollum and Lindsey Moon are traveling north along Highway 51 talking to voters about the election all this week. What issue is most important to you? Tweet @WPRNews #WIpolitics. Find updates from the road on WPRNews' Facebook page.