As a service to our readers, HOH made the rounds of select debate watch parties Wednesday night. With a surplus of venues and a limited capacity for liver damage, we sampled just a bit of what Capitol Hill had to offer.
The Pug: This pugilism and soccer-oriented tavern on H Street Northeast was an unlikely contender for debate watching, with its relaxed feel and assuredly nonpolitical tone. Above the bar are signs that read: No Snivelling, No Politics, No Bombs.
When we dropped by, in the fleeting minutes before the debate, every television was tuned either to the Baltimore Orioles-Tampa Bay Rays game or the Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees game. But politics gradually began to weave into the equation. Overheard: "There's a whole lot of weapons of mass destruction." A-ha. Perhaps someone from the 2004 debates got lost. Also overheard, someone dissing the neighborhood around our editorial offices: "Oh, NoMa? You don't know it? Yeah, the neighborhood around the Harris-Teeter. ... It's the very beginning of a very bad neighborhood."
201 Bar: This Senate-side bar was the picture of Washington social wonkiness, with a Democratic lean. Every television was tuned to MSNBC for the pre-debate show, then changed over to ABC's coverage for the debate itself. You would never know a pennant race was on at this bar. Some Ward 6 Democrats reserved the back room for a "Take Back The House in 2012!" fundraiser, and the crowd roared when President Barack Obama took the stage. However, some world weariness was evident, as well. As soon as moderator Jim Lehrer posed the first question, a young man said evenly to his companion: "It's boring already."
Union Pub: Down the street from the 201 Bar, young Republicans and Heritage Foundation staffers was noshing away at the outdoor tables to several big-screen televisions tuned into the debate. But if the 201 crowd was boisterous in its subterranean digs, the Union Pubbers were far more subdued. Hardly a peep for several minutes at a time, even at the normal applause lines from GOP nominee Mitt Romney.
The Tune Inn: This House-side classic was curiously empty. Plenty of open seats and tables. No Members or former Members (Really? No David Wu? Sadly no.) Televisions tuned to CNN, except for one that showed the Orioles-Rays game on MASN. It could have been a bar anywhere, perhaps Cottonwood, Ariz., based on the reaction. This is part of the Tune's charm, of course, but on the night of the first debate, except for an occasional groan or "Oh, God," when Romney said "I love great schools," this Capitol Hill favorite was almost as quiet as the Union Pub.
Wisdom: This Hill East bar by the Potomac Avenue Metro got into the spirit with its "debate bingo," encouraging spirit-loving customers to keep track of hot-button phrases such as "tax cut," "stimulus" and "main street." The cheeky bingo cards also spelled out "WISDOM Makes Debates More Fun."
Overall, a good night for democracy, if not our livers.