Busby's in Santa Monica was abuzz with political chatter Wednesday night as some 160 people gathered to watch the first in three rounds of debates between President Barack Obama and GOP candidate Mitt Romney.
Each of the bar's 47 televisions were tuned to the debate. There was such a large turnout, said general manager Mike Hamilton, that an extra 53 stools and chairs were put out. The bar's two pool tables were covered with slabs of plywood and table cloths, acting as makeshift tables for pints of beer, pork sliders and other happy hour fare.
"And, of course, every seat in the house is taken," said Hamilton.
Usually the turnout for a first presidential debate is OK, but this night was really, really good, said Hamilton, who has worked at the bar since its opening in 2003.
Though the atmosphere was charged—many in the crowd cheering, clapping for, or booing a candidate's remarks—Keith McCowen, a candidate himself for State Assembly District 54, wasn't impressed by either presidential hopeful.
"I thought the debate was pretty much even," said McCowen. "I think it was pretty dull, personally."
Liam Knight of Sherman Oaks thought Mitt Romney was the clear winner.
"I think he on a few points got under Obama's skin. Obama is narcissistic … and I love the way Mitt took it to him," said Knight. "Bush increased the deficit too, but [Obama] increased the deficit as much in his four years as Bush did in his eight years."
Hollywood resident Julie Falen was impressed with Romney's performance and thought Obama should have been more assertive on the issues of health care for senior citizens.
"I thought that [Romney] was very polished. He was very smooth," said Falen. "However, I believe that he was just putting forth the same talking points that he has throughout the whole campaign. Anytime he was talking about why he would do something—he would create 12 million jobs—well, how? There was never a specific plan."
Obama supporter Bryley Morrell wore an Obama-branded dress and two campaign pins. Though Morrell voted for Obama in 2008 and would clearly do so again in November, she was reluctant to say who she thought won Wednesday's debate.
"It's an interesting thing: We're lucky to have a democracy and both sides as we have being presented as they are," Morrell said.
Much of what Romney said about the economy resonated with small business owner Marcella Sutton, she said. Sutton blames the president for how his economic policies have affected her business.
"I had to cut people from my staff. I couldn't afford them," said Sutton. "I'm doing more work myself and I have a part-time person. It's too hard because of all the taxes that L.A. County, especially, has on small businesses. It's hard to make it."