Debate Party, Lower East Side Edition

By Sarah Kliff 

We all know the difference between a pit bull and a hockey mom.

But what exactly is a Pit Bull With Lipstick? Cranberry vodka, pineapple juice and a splash of Grenadine--or at least that's what you got when you ordered one at Slainte, a New York City bar hosting 200 or so twentysomethings gathered to watch the first presidential debate. The Lower East Side dive offered politically themed drinks (including Barack's Elite Cosmo and Biden's Commuter Cocktail). The crowd, thick with New York University grad students, engaged in drinking games ("hope," "change" and "Washington" were the key words triggering a tipple), joked ("the vodka in the pit bull is fitting since she can see Russia") and watched the candidates duke it out.

The Mets game was an option. But the line that stretched out the door by 9:30 p.m. wasn’t there for baseball, judging by the shushing that accomplished anyone who dared to talk over Obama’s comments on federal spending. The room’s Democratic bias was evident in the boos that greeted the image of John McCain and his wife, Cindy, boarding a plane--and the clapping virtually every time Obama opened his mouth. But there were a few vocal McCain supporters who made their presence known within the first 10 minutes, yelling about the Illinois senator’s lack of experience, profanities included. The booing must have scared them straight; the most gregarious of the lot remained mum for most of the next 80 minutes.

Among Obama’s most popular talking points: mention of the $10 billion spent per year in Iraq, and the mistake of going into Iraq in the first place. The crowd also loved it anytime Obama smirked when McCain had the floor.

“Oh, snap!” and “Hell, yeah!” the crowd crowed. But some at Slainte preferred to play pundit. "I hate to say it but I think McCain is winning," sighed one Obama supporter about 30 minutes in. Fifteen minutes later, this armchair quarterback’s analysis shifted slightly: "I think Obama’s throwing harder punches, but McCain is throwing more punches."

As the “Pit Bull” and “Biden” cocktails flowed, the quality of analysis tailed off, and the crowd’s attention began to wander. By 10:20, some turned their attention to the Mets’ losing effort. The consensus in the front right corner of the bar was that McCain had won ("if this is an NBA series, McCain is up 1 to 0") but that Obama had the chance to come out strong in the next two match-ups ("this debate was completely focused on Republican issues, he'll be better next time"). Others had already moved on. “Are we still doing karaoke?” one guy at the bar asked his friends. There were more debates ahead, after all, and the night was still young.