NORTH RALEIGH, NC (WNCN) — This year has set a record for the number of people watching Republican presidential debates, and it’s also set a precedent for the way they’re watched.
We joined a debate watch party at the Hibernian Irish Pub in North Raleigh where fans were cheering, wearing their favorite player’s name on their back, and handing out swag. If you didn’t know better, you would have thought you were watching a competition on the gridiron, not behind a podium.
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In the back room of a pub usually dedicated to football, a new kind of sporting event took over the TVs, and its fans filed in, filled with excitement. Of course, every team has their MVP.
“Ben Carson, we think he’s the best combination for all the requirements for a president, especially in these times,” said Frank Empie, a member of The 2016 Committee.
But in this game, fans are looking to win any way they can, jumping behind any standout player.
“What I notice is that they’re cheering all the candidates, which I think is great. Whenever they see, they hear something they agree with they cheer, regardless of who it’s coming from,” said Andrea George, a debate spectator.
That’s one thing that’s changing about American politics: voters are now cheering for candidates at watch parties while enjoying a brewski.
It’s not the Super Bowl, but it can be pretty entertaining.
“I think Donald Trump is drawing a lot of attention, but there are also so many candidates, and each candidate has their support group.
So, the combination of all that brings a lot of interest,” said Empie.
And behind all the spectacle, there’s a real chance for candidates to pull out the old playbook and hit voters with a move they won’t forget.
“For a number of candidates who are well down in the polls, this is an opportunity for them either to make up some ground against Donald Trump and Ben Carson, or go the route of Rick Perry which means, no longer in the campaign,” said Meredith College Political Science Professor, David McLennan.
All sports analogies aside, McLennan says now is when the primary field starts shrinking. If at this point a candidate doesn’t have a good footing in the race, they’re sure to fall short.