- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 6, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The first Republican debate has expanded into eight hours of live coverage on Fox News. It is a prime time phenomenon. But it has also prompted the Democratic Party to organize 38 official watch parties in 17 states, to be staged in local bars, private homes and regional Democratic headquarters. Whether they are curious, critical or nervous remains to be seen. But the Democrats are offering debate watching party kits that include GOP bingo cards, lapel pins and glassware - plus a prescribed agenda.

“Democrats will ensure that Americans understand the choice between a Democratic presidential candidate who will fight for middle-class and working families, and the 18 Republicans in the race who will all fight for the wealthiest Americans and most powerful Washington special interests,” the Democratic National Committee advises party hosts.

Things are a little more cheerful on the Republicans side of things. A perfect example is Buckeye Boot Camp & Debate Watch Camp in Cleveland, at a major nightclub two blocks from the very debate itself. The motto of the night: “Ready to fight for America?” The event has been organized by the American Conservative Union.

Among those on hand for the festivities: the organization’s chairman Matt Schlapp, polling maven Kellyanne Conway, the NRA Institute for Legislative Action executive director Chris Cox and yes, at least four of the Republican hopefuls before they hit the stage.

The candidates have also entered the party fray; Gov. Scott Walker and Sen. Rand Paul are among those organizing watch parties for their fans in several states. Sen. Marco Rubio has created an online “debate dashboard” to organize his followers featuring twitter feeds, behind the scenes photographs and other insider fare.

The debate is also prime for the same commercial treatment given to sports; scores of events are popping up at bars around the nation, all boasting politically themed happy hours, big screen TVs, games, special guests, special drinks and party favors.

“New Yorkers looking for a place to party while watching the first GOP primary debate have lots of options, “notes the International Business Times in a review of a dozen venues in Manhattan for guests from both sides of the aisle.

“So order a few drinks, sit back and watch as the 10 poll-topping candidates deliver memorable one-liners or squirm under the pressure,” the news organization advises.


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