Diehard supporters of President Barack Obama found he came up a little short against his challenger in a debate Wednesday night, mainly because Mitt Romney exceeded expectations.
"I think Romney won by virtue of being fairly articulate and concise and standing his own," said Stuart Davis, a 30-year-old Ashland resident. "Romney took a slight edge."
Like many of the 60 people watching the debate at The Black Sheep and other public spaces throughout Ashland, Davis didn't think either candidate spouted any major gaffes that would become fodder for political pundits.
But many expected more out of the president, who was known for his lofty speeches when he took office four years ago.
"I'm a little bit disappointed with Obama," Davis said. "He was not as forceful as he could have been."
Patrick McLain, a 54-year-old Obama supporter who lives in Talent, said both candidates did a good job, but he wasn't swayed by the debate.
"You're not really voting for a man," McLain said. "You're voting for a party."
McLain said Romney panders too much to the right wing of his party, which McLain thinks has a clear agenda.
"I don't see a clear winner," he said. "Romney didn't make a gaffe, though."
Chad Magruder, a 26-year-old Talent resident, said he's undecided and will be studying the facts behind the policies outlined by the two candidates before making a decision.
Assessing the debate, Magruder found Romney more convincing.
"If I was to pick a winner, I would say Obama is trailing behind Romney," Magruder said.
Ariana Jacob, a 36-year-old Portland resident, said Romney did better than she expected, so she gave him the edge in the debate, though it didn't change her mind about voting for Obama.
She did critique the style of the candidates, finding fault with how they responded. "Obama, sadly, kept making a bunch of weird frowns," she said. "Romney looked vacant and kept blinking."
Overall, the debate didn't provide any new insights into the candidates, Jacob said. She said Obama and Romney kept falling back on jargon.
"The thing that was the most disappointing — it doesn't seem like they cut through the B.S.," she said.
Doug Anton, a 59-year-old Ashland resident, said he appreciated the conciliatory tone of the debate and said both candidates appeared well prepared.
Both Anton and his wife, Carole, thought there wasn't a clear winner in the debate, which they both plan to watch again because it was difficult to hear in the din of the pub.
They don't rely on political pundits who often shape national opinion about a debate. And they say they aren't swayed by the style of the delivery.
"We don't pay attention to that," said Anton, a registered Republican. "We're not from the Kim Kardashian generation."
Despite being a Republican, Anton had a difficult time remembering the last time he voted for a president from his own party.
His wife said her husband's Republican leanings won't affect her voting habits. "I'm more likely to make him a Democrat," she said.
Herman von Treskow, a 64-year-old San Francisco resident, said he is a citizen of Germany, though he is extremely interested in American politics.
He said the level of political discourse in this country comes up short, and he doesn't find any presidential candidates ever discussing the issues truthfully.
However, he does give Obama the nod over Romney, saying the president took office during a time of crisis for the U.S.
"I believe Obama had a raw deal for the first four years," he said. "He's had the toughest assignment."
Derek Smith, a 21-year-old Ashland resident, said this will be his first year voting, but he found both candidates disappointing in their answers.
"How am I going to know what the truth is?" he said. "They're just arguing and saying what's wrong with the other person's policies. From a young person's perspective, it seems like two old men bickering."
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.