President Barack Obama was the clear and obvious favorite among the crowd here at the Arlington Young Democrats debate watch party at Bailey’s Pub. But moderator and CNN personality Candy Crowley was a close second, with her performance eliciting nearly as many loud cheers from this partisan audience as the sitting president of the United States.
To be sure, the crowd of about 50 were enthused by Obama’s more aggressive behavior as squared off against Mitt Romney. There were hoots and hollers of approval from the audience when Obama began a response to Romney with, “Candy, what Governor Romney said just isn’t true.” When Obama said Romney “doesn’t have a five-point plan. He has a one-point plan,” it was the same story.
They celebrated when Obama brought up the story of Romney standing in front of a coal plant in Massachusetts and saying, “this plant kills.” They exhaled with relief when Obama proudly touted Obamacare’s mandate that employers provide insurance plans that cover contraception. “Thank you!” one woman said.
And in Obama’s closing statement, when he finally—finally!—brought up Romney’s closed-door “47 percent” remarks, there was sustained applause. “Yes!” several of the audience members shouted. “Yes!”
But the biggest reaction of the night didn’t come from an Obama one-liner or a Romney misstatement. It came during the exchange on Libya. Romney, having heard Obama claim to have stated that the September 11 attack on the American consulate in Benghazi was “an act of terror” in a Rose Garden speech on September 12, challenged the point.
“I want to make sure we get that for the record because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror,” Romney said.
Obama responded, “Get the transcript.”
Crowley said, underneath some crosstalk, that Obama “did in fact” call it an act of terror. But the line was difficult to hear, so Obama said, “Can you say that a little louder, Candy?”
“He did call it an act of terror,” Crowley said. That brought the house down at Bailey’s. A roar of applause echoed throughout the party room as the audience relished watching Romney taken down a peg by the moderator. So loud were the cheers, actually, that no one could hear Crowley add that, nonetheless, the administration had claimed for two weeks after that the attack was about “there being a riot out there about this tape.” Romney, Crowley later said on CNN, was "right in the main."
No matter. The Democrats here were looking for an energy boost from the president after a lackluster performance 13 days earlier. And Obama, with a little aid from Crowley, delivered.