Wow...have you ever seen so many people mesmerized by a "boring" policy debate?
I took this photo on Tuesday night at the Democratic debate watch party in the large outdoor courtyard of the historic Scholz Garten restaurant in Austin, Texas. For many years, this has been a popular venue for watching debates, election returns and other political events in town...and I've attended my fair share of them.
For instance, I was there cheering on Joe Biden and laughing at Sarah Palin during their '08 debate. I was there as depressed as everyone else watching Mitt Romney spank President Obama during the first debate of '12. But I was also there, moved almost to tears, watching the president's victory speech just a month later.
And every time, there was always a decent-to-large sized crowd that seemed pretty excited to be there. Even so, this time was different.
Despite being months away from the Iowa caucuses and that this was just the first primary debate, I've never seen a more densely packed crowd at this venue or heard one that was so excited and engaged for the Democrats at a debate. Any debate. In fact, it was so packed that there was nowhere for me to sit except the ground...and even there it was hard to find a spot!
Due to the venue's very close proximity to the University of Texas, I assumed that there would be a large cheering section for Bernie Sanders...and there certainly was. But the support for Hillary Clinton was just as deep and vocal. Honestly, it was hard for me to tell who had the larger dedicated cheering section...because both seemed to be equally loud and enthusiastic.
However, this event didn't have the feel of factions fighting against each other. Rather, it felt more like we were all having a great time together because we all had some great and inspiring candidates to cheer for.
Both Clinton and Sanders regularly received loud and sustained applause from every corner of the venue throughout the night. And of course, the whole place absolutely erupted with Bernie's "damn emails" line...the absolute highlight for seemingly everyone. The response to O'Malley was more subtle, though his final statement received the best response of anyone. Also, Chafee and Webb provided some nice unintentional comic relief.
Just a fluky Austin thing? Nope...
One debate in and already there was a bigger audience than any of the must-see Obama/Clinton debates of '08. How about that?CNN's Democratic debate drew 15.3 million viewers, the highest rated Democratic primary debate ever.— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) October 14, 2015
Is this record involvement and palpable excitement due to our great candidates? Of course, but don't underestimate the effect of repeatedly witnessing the offensive circus freakshow of Trump and his band of bozos along with such tactics as the the sham Benghazi Committee and the war on Planned Parenthood. If the GOP is trying to radicalize sane individuals against them in huge numbers across the country, they are clearly doing an excellent job.
Election Day is still over a year away and I can honestly say that I've never seen Democrats so completely stoked at the prospect of crushing the Republicans...with an awesome but still-to-be-determined nominee leading the way.