Bill Silverfarb/Daily Journal
A few people came to watch the presidential debate at the Burlingame Public Library Wednesday night.
As Republicans and Democrats alike held watch parties last night across the Bay Area to see President Barack Obama square off against rival Mitt Romney in the first of their three debates, a small group gathered at the Burlingame Public Library to watch the event live for free on a big screen.
It wasn’t much of a party but there was the occasional chuckle or hiss from the crowd of about 10 as either candidate made funny or off-putting remarks.
While moderator Jim Lehrer tried to keep the candidates on topic with questions related to the economy, the deficit, entitlements such as Social Security and partisan bickering, much of the crowd at the Burlingame library said both candidates offered little details or substantive answers to critical questions.
That may have been due to the format, said San Mateo resident Lorraine Walters.
The time constraints offered little substance to the debate, she said, and only offered snapshots of the two candidates and their policies.
She also said both candidates "played it safe” in their first debate at the University of Denver.
"They were not as adversarial as I thought they’d be,” Walters said after the debate. "They were both defensive.”
However, she went into the debate supporting Obama and Romney did little to sway her opinion last night.
"Some of the things Romney says sound too good to be true,” she said.
Romney spent too much time discussing the past four years and not enough discussing the eight years before that, she said, when President George W. Bush was in office.
"Bush got us in this mess. We are still in wars and the cost of war wasn’t discussed enough,” she said.
Millbrae resident Jerry Sheehan also watched the debate at the Burlingame library.
Sheehan said both men came into the debate well prepared but that Romney used "the same arguments” he has used the past year, with little success of swaying his opinion. Sheehan came into the debate an Obama supporter and left the debate an Obama supporter.
"Romney has a personality problem,” Sheehan said. "He has a problem with exuding sincere empathy. He sounds like a car salesman. It’s his unfortunate persona.”
While the county’s top Democrats held a lively watch party at their headquarters in Belmont, the county’s biggest political figure, U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, watched the debate from home alongside her husband, who is suffering from a mild illness.
"We knew that Romney knows how to debate but he doesn’t know how to tell the truth,” Speier told the Daily Journal last night after the debate.
Fact checkers, she said, will have a field day going through Romney’s remarks.
She said, however, that Obama did not bring his "A” game.
"The president didn’t come ready to spar and Romney did,” Speier said.
Speier expected Obama to chastise Romney for his comments at a fundraiser where he said "47 percent” of Americans expect handouts and entitlements from the government or for his series of flip-flops on immigration or government bailouts or a woman’s right to choose.
She said the president has pulled the country out of some of its darkest times, made the world safer by eliminating the threat of Osama bin Laden and brought the troops home from Iraq.
The Burlingame Public Library will be showing the vice presidential debate on Oct. 11 at 6 p.m. The Library is located at 480 Primrose Road in Burlingame. For more information about future viewings visit http://www.burlingame.org/index.aspx?page=9.
Bill Silverfarb can be reached by email: email@example.com or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 106.