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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Pinellas Republicans gather to watch presidential debate



CLEARWATER -- It seems improbable, but the bar in which the Pinellas County Republican Party watched Thursday night’s debate was not selected for its name. Happenstance brought about 50 people to the Fat Cat Tavern on U.S. 19 to cheer on Mitt Romney, who was working hard to dispel the notion that he favors fat cats.

Like parents both pleased and a little stunned by their child's success, they cheered hard for Romney. They held “Florida Believes” signs aloft over plates of wings and bottles of Miller Lite. And they heckled President Barack Obama every time he appeared on the eight flat screen TVs.

“He's a frickin idiot!” yelled one viewer over a snoozy back-and-forth about healthcare. "Blah blah blah!”

Brent Narog of Pinellas Park compared Obama to the pigs in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, characters who lead the other animals after a
revolution and come to be hated and feared. On his t-shirt were the initials O.M.G. — Obama Must Go. Narog has been out of work for two
years, he said, and pays the bills by selling his belongings at auctions and yard sales.

“George Orwell is really on my mind lately,” he explained later. “I think we’re in a socialist state and everyone knows that socialism leads to communism.”

Romney’s reference to the U.S. Constitution got a standing ovation. His warning that America is on the path to ruin, like Spain, got overwhelming applause.

No one defended Big Bird.

“It’s like watching a baseball game,” said Mike Mason, who recently moved to Tarpon Springs and considers himself “more or less a Tea
Party guy.”

Mason’s was an apt comparison, as by the final inning, the Fat Cat Tavern crowd was certain Romney had won and they could begin to pack
up. Their candidate’s upbeat performance — his aggressive stance, constant comebacks and quips — left them looking forward to November.
Mail ballots were sent out on Tuesday, but most people in attendance had not yet voted.

He was “ultra-fantastic,” said Pam Hinds, who coordinates events and takes photographs for the party. “He was surprisingly good; he really
knew what he was talking about.”

By the end of the debate, Hinds said she almost felt sorry for Obama. The president looked like he could use a long nap. “I thought it’d be
much more difficult to debate him,” she said.

Lee Goscin of Clearwater agreed. “I’ve never seen Obama speak this poorly,” she said.

She plans to vote for Romney, but she also plans to watch the vice presidential debate next with the Pinellas County Democrats “to see what they’re saying and what the other point of view is.”

--Anna M. Phillips, Times staff writer


[Last modified: Thursday, October 4, 2012 11:33am]


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