A crowd of spirited and confident Mitt Romney supporters packed a back room at Fat Cat Tavern in Clearwater on Wednesday night to show solidarity and support for their candidate.
The debate watch party was officially sponsored by the Republican National Committee and was hosted by the Republican Party of Pinellas County, and people came from all over to see how Romney would fare in his first presidential debate of the campaign.
And when the cheering stopped, everyone in the room agreed the Republican nominee had not only won, but won by a landslide.
“It was absolutely fantastic. He did everything perfectly,” Pam Hinds, District 51 chairperson for the Republican Party of Pinellas County, said of her candidate.
“He answered everything perfectly. The problem was, Obama couldn’t even answer him.”
“This man walked all over Obama tonight,” Melody Engle of Palm Harbor said afterward. “This is the most pivotal election of our time. It’s all about the economy and it’s all about jobs, and Romney proved that tonight.”
For medical assistant and massage therapist Susan Foertsch of Seminole, she was especially impressed with how Romney addressed the need to spur the growth of small businesses again.
“Our economy is our biggest problem right now and we need a businessman to lead us,” she added. “He should’ve been elected in ’08, and we wouldn’t be in this position now.”
Foertsch fears if her candidate does not win in November, she will be forced out of the field where she has held a job for the last 21 years.
“It’s essential for small business to thrive for our economy to improve, and I’ve said all along, these small doctors are like small businesses,” Foertsch said.
“Because of Obamacare, I’m having a hard time finding a job. It’s been rough. Hopefully I’ll have a job if Romney is elected.”
Chants of “Mitt! Mitt! Mitt!” filled the room at the U.S. 19 establishment when the debate began, and rapt eyes turned to the televisions and listened intently.
But prior to the start, people hoped and literally prayed that their candidate would come through when it mattered most.
“I hope he stays on key with what has not been done over the last four years,” Republican Party volunteer Lyle Mills of Largo said before the debate began.
“I’d like to see the bickering come to an end. It’s not working. It’s a turnoff.”
Jill Bader, Florida Communications Director for the Republican National Committee, said the purpose of the watch parties is to to unify and excite party members.
“This is a grass roots campaign. We’ll reach our eight-millionth voter across Florida this week, by calling and knocking on doors, which is unprecedented,” she said. “That’s 16 times more people than we reached in 2008.”
“The enthusiasm gap is on our side, while the Obama camp’s has really gone down,” Bader added. “That’s why grass roots campaigns are so important. You can really feel the excitement when you’re part of groups like this.”
There’s no doubt there was excitement in the room before, during and after the debate.
And with most people here agreeing Romney won, the enthusiasm level should be high heading into next week’s second faceoff between the candidates.
“I don’t see how you can’t say he’s winning, even if you’re a Democrat,” Holiday resident Don Josephik said near the end of the debate.
"He's doing a great job. He's definitely winning," Bonnie James of Palm Harbor added.
“Romney won in a landslide,” Foertsch concluded. “The liberal media is going to have a hard time spinning this one in their favor.”