Contrary to conventional wisdom, the chairman of the county Democratic Party said Wednesday night that he didn’t think either Mitt Romney or President Obama won the first debate.
“It’s a back and forth,” said the chairman, Jess Durfee, answering questions after a debate viewing party attended by 240 at the La Mesa Community Center.
“We’re gonna hear over the next 24 hours what the talking heads have to say,” he said. “But the bottom line is, historically, we do not see debates cause a significant change in the outcome of the elections. Unless there’s a gaffe—but I think it’s safe to say that neither of them had a huge gaffe.”
Reflecting recent voter registration numbers showing a climb in county Democrats, La Mesa Democrats came out in full force to watch the presidential debate hosted by the La Mesa-Foothills Democratic Club.
Viewing the coverage on MSNBC, the crowd understandably cheered at declarations made by Obama and jeered at assertions offered by former Massachusetts Gov. Romney.
After the debate, Durfee congratulated those in attendance, calling the number of people in the crowd “amazing,” and saying it was about twice the number that were at the party’s big campaign headquarters. Those in attendance included Rep. Susan Davis, who represents La Mesa and the 53rd District in the House of Representatives.
Also present were local candidates, including Patrick Dean, seeking a seat on the La Mesa City Council; Jay Steiger, running for La Mesa-Spring Valley School District board; and Lori Kern, vying for Helix Water District board.
Durfee also praised the future of the Democratic Party in La Mesa and in San Diego County, referencing a recent report that Dems now outnumber GOPers in the county by around 4,000 registered voters.
That aligns with the numbers in La Mesa as well, as Democrats outnumber Republicans 11,640 to 10,380—with a total of 30,995 eligible to vote.
Durfee also spoke about important propositions on the ballot for Democrats, including advocating a “no” vote on Proposition 32, the “Paycheck Protect” initiative. The passed, the proposition would:
- Ban both corporate and union contributions to state and local candidates
- Ban contributions by government contractors to the politicians who control contracts awarded to them
- Ban automatic deductions by corporations, unions, and government of employees’ wages to be used for politics
“[Prop. 32] is a manipulative, underhanded scheme to unfund Democrats, so that the Republicans will have all the money in the world to do what they want with,” Durfee said. “They can’t win in the ballot box, they can’t win on registrations, so this is what they’re trying to do. They’re trying to win by buying elections and eliminate our ability to defend ourselves.”
Durfee also spoke to La Mesa-Mount Helix Patch, and reiterated that it’s too early to tell who won or lost the debate.
“You can’t just listen to the debate, you kind of have to see what the talking heads say,” he said. “What we see and what others see it always changes, and so you have to wait about 36 hours to see how it’s being interpreted. A good example is John Kerry.
“Everyone assumed he won both of the debates in 2004 against George Bush, and Bush got re-elected. So the impact as I was saying is usually negligible, unless someone makes a mistake, and it has to be pretty severe at that.”
Durfee’s counterpart, Tony Krvaric, chairman of the Republican Party of San Diego County, disagreed, saying in a statement that Romney clearly won the debate.
"Governor Romney needed to draw clear contrasts to President Obama tonight, and on that point he succeeded,” said Krvaric. "However, more importantly Governor Romney not only stayed on offense during the entire debate, but he came armed with facts and figures to defend his positions. Other than his opening and closing statements - which were neatly scripted - the president was on defense and stumbled during the debate, seemingly longing for his teleprompter."
However, Durfee said he feels confident that the Obama ticket will prevail.
“What you have to do, in any election, is just create doubt, especially in a race as important as president of the United States,” he said.
“I think that’s the good thing about Barack Obama. His favorabilities are very high. People know him. And if you look at the polling on how he is on different issues—whether it’s the economy, creating jobs, all of those things—they are more confident in the president than Romney. And so I think that sort of says what direction they are going to go in unless that changes in the next few weeks, and I don’t see that happening.”
Patch hosted a viewing party in downtown San Diego, featuring a photo gallery and video interviews with many invited guests. Check out the story to see who our readers think won the debate.