By Susan Redden
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Local party faithful were listening intently Wednesday night when President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney squared off for the first of three presidential debates.
Republicans and Democrats both put on events at which supporters could gather to watch the exchange, which focused on domestic issues.
They praised the stances of their respective candidates, and sometimes vocally challenged points offered by the other side.
Tom Meadows, of Joplin, laughed during an early part of the debate when he said it appeared that Obama was trying to steer the conversation away from the economy.
“He wants to talk about anything but that,” Meadows said as he sat with more than 50 people watching the debate at the Republicans’ Joplin campaign office on East 32nd Street. Meadows said he owns a cabinet business, and he is especially concerned about the impact of federal health care reforms.
“I own a small business; if Obamacare goes through, we’ll have to shut our doors,” he said.
On the other side of town, Carolyn McGowan, of Webb City, listened to the debate at Gusano’s Pizza on East Seventh Street with about 55 other Democrats.
The local party chairwoman said she particularly likes Obama’s stances on social issues and those involving women’s health.
“Romney is not at all concerned about poor people, and government is supposed to care and take care of people,” she said. “And on women’s issues and women’s health, he would take us back 100 years.”
McGowan said her concerns about Romney were confirmed when he picked Wisconsin U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate. “He (Ryan) and Todd Akin think exactly alike,” she said.
At the GOP gathering, JeAnna McGarrah, of Neosho, said Obama’s tax policies aimed at upper income earners would hurt the economy.
She said the taxes the president wants to impose on those making more than $250,000 a year “remove any incentive for people who want to work for the American dream.”
“I want a leader who is concerned about the economy and cares about small business,” she said.
Jessica Beck, president of the College Democrats at Missouri Southern State University, said it appeared that Romney was trying to shift away from a position he had taken recently saying there would be no middle-class tax cut.
“He said that in Ohio, and now it sounds like he’s trying to take it back,” she said.
She said the debate had been “a good match” between the two candidates.
Alicia Mason, an assistant professor in the Department of Communication at Pittsburg (Kan.) State University, said before the debate that the format doesn’t allow the candidates to give great detail on complex issues, but that it does offer them an opportunity to connect with voters.
She said she did not expect the debate to cause a major shift among voters to either candidate.
IN ADDITION to the watch party on East 32nd Street, Republicans also gathered at Jasper County campaign headquarters at Seventh Street and Duquesne Road.