Steamboat Springs Rob and Lisa Callahan had different expectations leading up to Thursday night's debate between vice presidential candidates Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., and Gov. Sarah Palin, R-Alaska.
"Palin will show how she's been coached, and she's completely uninformed on the issues and doesn't know anything other than what she's been coached," Lisa Callahan said.
"I just don't think Palin's as stupid as she does," Rob Callahan replied.
The two, on vacation from Savannah, Ga., were among dozens who crowded into the back room of Sunpie's Bistro for a debate watch party hosted by Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama's Campaign for Change office in Steamboat Springs.
The standing-room-only crowd listened with mostly rapt attention throughout the 90-minute debate. The most spirited responses came after Biden zingers such as his characterization of one of Republican presidential nominee John McCain's policies as "the ultimate bridge to nowhere" and Palin slip-ups such as when she mistakenly referred to Biden as "Sen. O'Biden," the Taliban as the "Taliban-ee," and McCain as "the man we need to leave - lead."
But by the end of the night, many found themselves unexpectedly impressed by the Republican running mate - just as Rob Callahan predicted.
"I thought she confronted (complicated issues) a lot better than I thought," said Tina Segler, who said before the debate that she had very low expectations for Palin. "She still dodged the subject when she got stuck, but she did better than I thought. I think that's because I had such low expectations to begin with."
David Moulton also was surprised by a debate that he initially thought would be "more a stump platform than a debate."
"I think it was much better than I anticipated," said Moulton, who thought the debate was even better than last week's face-off between Obama and McCain. "I think they had more positive things to say."
The debate also was likely more substantive than expected for the creators of a bingo drinking game that many played throughout the event. Squares were filled with buzz phrases including "executive experience," "33 years in Senate," "shore up economy," "Bush doctrine," "maverick," "bailout," "hockey mom," "Main Street," "deregulation," "small-town Wasilla" and "working-class Scranton."
While many of the buzz phrases were mentioned throughout the debate, no one was able to call out a bingo.
Local Democrats plan other election-related events in the days and weeks leading up to the Nov. 4 election. On Saturday, Diane White-Crane will host a party for Obama supporters at her llama farm in Clark. White-Crane was a staffer for late former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.
"Barack Obama, in my opinion, because of his high intelligence and his integrity and his charisma, has the potential to be the greatest president we've ever had," said White-Crane, who particularly was perturbed by Palin's smile throughout the debate. "He's the first candidate I've been this excited about since Bobby Kennedy."
Harris Reitman-Swiss, head of the college Democrats at Colorado Mountain College, said he already has signed up about 40 students who will wait outside the Routt County Courthouse to be among the first to cast their votes when early voting starts at 8:30 a.m. Oct. 20.
"There's a lot of support at the college," said Reitman-Swiss, who wore a button that read "GOP RIP." "Eight-thirty for a college student - that's early."