Dozens of watch parties were held across the state last night as the GOP presidential contenders took to Boulder for their third debate. Bente Birkeland attended a watch party at a lounge in downtown Denver where many undecided GOP voters gathered to mingle, discuss the candidates and pick the debate’s winner and loser.
At the Epernay Lounge in downtown Denver business and grass roots Republican groups hosted about 150 people. The crowd mostly consisted of moderate Republicans; many were undecided and had several possibilities for support. Wade Walton is an attorney who lives in Denver. He’s a member of the Lincoln Club of Colorado; the oldest Republican club in the state, but he’s registered as an unaffiliated voter. He said he was pleased that the candidates didn’t spend the debate attacking each other.
“I think moderators try to do that, they try to encourage the fighting amongst them and I’m glad they stuck together and didn’t do too much.”
Walton believes Sen. Ted Cruz is the smartest of the group. He also likes Donald Trump’s enthusiasm and Carly Fiorina. Walton said he could back almost any of the GOP contenders, except for former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.
“I’m just not a big fan of him with his common core stance. And we don’t need any more Bush’s in the office I don’t think,” said Walton.
Walton’s colleague, oil and gas attorney Nathan McKibben was a strong backer of Trump coming into the debate and the evening only reinforced his opinion. McKibben is a registered Democrat but says he actually leans Republican.
“What I like about Trump is that he’s not politically correct, he shoots people straight. We need somebody in the White House that is very strong.”
McKibben’s support of Trump was not the norm among this more moderate crowd. While he generated quite a few laughs many in the crowd said they didn’t view him as a serious contendor. Aubrey Blankenship lives in Highlands Ranch and runs a marketing firm. She is active in young Republican circles and said the debates have helped educate her about the various candidates. For instance, Blankenship said Fiorina wasn’t on her radar until the last debate. And after this one, Sen. Marco Rubio, along with Fiorina are top choices. She said her key issues are mental health awareness and public safety.
“Whether it’s ISIS or police officers in general,” said Blankenship. “I have a very difficult time with the message coming out there these days that law enforcement is out to get you, because it’s really not. Those guys put their lives on the line every day.
The debate didn’t seem to change anyone’s overall opinion, but according to an informal poll attendees took, Rubio came away the clear winner, he also gained the most supporters. Trump was voted the loser of the debate, not far behind him was Bush.