Engaged voters filled seats at Bay Street Theatre on Monday night for a free viewing of the final presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, and — according to many in attendance — it was a clear win for Obama.
The majority of the crowd in Sag Harbor were Obama supporters, and they cheered and clapped at several of his remarks and retorts. At certain moments, such as Obama telling Romney that, in addition to fewer ships, the American military has fewer "horses and bayonets" today, there was uproarious laughter.
At other times, the room grew quiet, as the audience attentively listened to the candidates go back and forth on complicated foreign policy and life-or-death issues.
A pair of friends who attended the viewing, Sarah Diehl, of Springs, and Jennifer Etzkin, of Sag Harbor, said they are Obama supporters, and they believe their man won the debate.
"He took it and ran with it," Etzkin said of Obama, adding that she was surprised at how often Romney agreed with Obama.
Diehl said that Obama showed strength and he addressed the "lack of clarity" in Romney's answers and positions. Romney was sweating, she said, and he appeared not to have any confidence in what he was saying.
On the topic of conflict in Syria, Diehl said she agreed with Obama's criticism of Romney calling for arming Syrian rebels. "I also think it's a terrible idea."
Lorraine Hawxwell, of Noyac, said she was undecided going into the debate, but now feels that she is leaning toward one candidate — though she kept that candidate's identity to herself.
"I wish they could both just work together and do this job," Hawxwell said.
After watching the candidates go after each other and call each other liars, she found CNN's instant fact checking following the debate helpful, she said.
Hawxwell came to the debate with her husband, David, and their friends visiting was Passaic County, N.J., the Weissmans.
She said that while they could have watched the debate on television, she wanted to see other people's reaction as it was happening — and wanted to show her visitors Bay Street Theater.
Bay Street hosted free viewings of all the presidential and vice presidential debates this election year, and will also open its doors at 8 p.m. on Election Day so the community can watch the election returns pour in.
Al Weissman said that all politics is theater. He called Romney the "consummate salesman" and said the candidate abandoned what he said during the Republican primaries.
Barbara Weissman said Obama came off during the debate as having a better grasp of foreign policy, projecting a sense of, "This is what I do every day, so I really know what I'm talking about."
Like his wife, Hawxwell said he was undecided when he sat down for the debate, and immediately after he still had not made his choice. He said he voted for John McCain in 2008, but he was not disappointed when Obama won.
"I just long for consensus," he said. "I long for people who put the needs of the country ahead of the need of the party."