Debate watchers are not swayed

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. | Sen. Barack Obama may have lost some support when he said people earning $250,000 or more were rich, but Friday’s first presidential debate changed few minds among a mixed group of voters.

“I’m completely conflicted, I really have no idea what I’m going to do,” Anne Tipton, a Memphis attorney, said before the 90-minute debate started.

And after?

“If I went into the voting booth tomorrow I’d just have to stay in there,” she said.

Mike Scholl, an attorney who hosted the debate watch party at his home, did not like it when the Democratic presidential nominee defined wealthy people.

“I know a lot of guys who make that much as small business owners like me, and I wouldn’t consider them rich,” he said. “It’s not rich by any stretch of the imagination once you pay taxes.”

But he still can’t make up his mind.

“I felt like it was sort of half and half, it didn’t really help me,” he said.

Joelle Bradshaw was already an Obama supporter, and organized the party at Mr. Scholl’s home in the Southbluff neighborhood here with the philosophy: “All viewpoints are welcome.”

Her posting on the BarackObama.com site for debate-watch parties encouraged supporters of both Mr. Obama and Republican nominee Sen. John McCain as well as undecided voters, saying: “Let’s mix it up!”

Melissa Lucy arrived a McCain supporter and the debate “strengthened my resolve even further.”

“He’s 100 percent confident that he can lead this nation, and much more presidential than Obama ever is,” she said. “Maybe eight years ago in a pre-Bush United States maybe Obama would have been OK, but right now we need someone who can do the job.”

The forum sealed Marty McAfee’s vote for Mr. Obama, even though he supported Mr. McCain in 2000.

“He used to seem like his own man, but the more I see McCain the less I think of him. It’s really sad to see he’s sold out and become just another politician,” Mr. McAfee said.

“Now he seems to be really owned by those pollsters. How many times did he say, ‘Senator Obama doesn’t understand? He said it in every answer, no matter what the question,” Mr. McAfee said. “He was clearly coached.”

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About the Author

Christina Bellantoni

Christina Bellantoni is a White House correspondent for The Washington Times in Washington, D.C., a post she took after covering the 2008 Democratic presidential campaigns. She has been with The Times since 2003, covering state and Congressional politics before moving to national political beat for the 2008 campaign. Bellantoni, a San Jose native, graduated from UC Berkeley with ...

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