Tuesday, October 7, 2008

What I saw from my seat

Tuesday’s presidential debate at Belmont University was a carefully orchestrated affair, one that provided limited interaction between the candidates and the town hall audience that was intended to make this event a barometer of what the nation wants from its next president.

But from inside the Curb Event Center, there was an audience that was unafraid to react to candidates’ responses, or their lack thereof – something that didn’t always show up on camera.

In addition to the chuckles moderator Tom Brokaw drew when he repeatedly addressed time constraints on candidate responses, reactions from audience members ranged from holding head in hands to chuckling at candidates’ responses and squabbles.

Those reactions might have been even less subdued had it not been for the freezing temperatures in the debate hall, which had many audience members wrapped in shawls and suit jackets as they blew into their hands throughout the debate. Staff member from the Commission on Presidential Debates warned reporters that the hall would be about 65 degrees, but the hall could have been 10 degrees cooler easily.

Before the debate, many audience members tried to see how many national political figures they could pick out of the crowd seated directly below the network camera platform. Al and Tipper Gore received special recognition from the CPD and were treated to a standing ovation. Other notable guests included former Republican presidential hopeful Fred Thompson, who chatted it up with Mitt Romney, another Republican hopeful this year, seated in the row behind him. Former Titan Eddie George had a prime seat next to the Gores.

After the cameras turned off, Sen. Barack Obama and wife Michelle stayed on the debate floor, chatting with town hall members while taking photos and signing autographs. Sen. John McCain shook hands with some town hall members immediately after the debate had concluded before leaving the debate floor.

(Photo credit: Larry McCormack/The Tennessean)

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