It wasn’t the 300-plus people who turned out to watch the first Trump-Clinton debate. Still, Tuesday’s vice presidential debate watch party at Dave & Buster’s in Boise, sponsored by radio station KIDO 580, drew a crowd of about 50 — a polite, patient and attentive group, and highly partisan.
Host Kevin Miller from the radio station warmed them up ahead of time, and took their political temperature. Will Republican Mike Pence win? Democrat Tim Kaine? It wasn’t a surprise that the crowd was mostly for Pence — and hence, Donald Trump.
More than 90 minutes later, Miller, broadcasting live, took reactions from the crowd. They had watched closely, and graded the matchup intently.
“Pence won the debate in the first five minutes,” said one woman.
“Pence has won my vote for Trump-Pence,” said a man won over by Pence’s closing remarks on abortion.
Not everyone was as ebullient.
“I’m concerned,” said Hilary Henson, of Boise, her brow furrowed. Trump, she says, has to win over more people, and “time is running out.”
“I thought it would be more level-headed,” said Steve Ackerman, campaign coordinator for Idaho Republican Russ Fulcher’s gubernatorial campaign. “Kaine left a few things on the table.”
“I think it was a really good debate this time around,” another man who was clearly a Republican said. “I’ll be interested to see how the mainstream media spins it tomorrow.”
“Does anybody think Tim Kaine won?” Miller asked. Near silence.
The crowd stayed with the debate every minute, riding its ups and downs. They scoffed when Kaine said the terrorist threat against the U.S. has decreased, and cheered when, at the end of Kaine’s long answer, Pence retorted: “Did you work on that one a long time?”
“Shut your mouth and let ’em talk!” an exasperated Jason Bair, of Meridian, said at one point, as Kaine tried to speak over Pence. Pence was accusing the Clinton-Kaine team of wanting to raise taxes, saying he and Trump would cut them. (That debate will continue even past Election Day, no doubt. )
The two candidates were surprisingly combative. Bair, with some derision, said that both are “career politicians,” but he likes what Pence is saying about cutting taxes.
“I would definitely prefer Trump over Hillary,” he said.
Not everyone was sold on Trump.
“The winner of this debate is definitely Pence,” Middleton’s Nolan Rehm told Miller. But, he said, “It’s Hillary and Trump that’s running for president, and I can’t vote for either of them.”
So who will Rehm vote for? Rehm’s answer: a write-in for Ted Cruz. A muffled groan went up.
“Thanks for the hope and change,” Miller quipped.