Phoenix is a city with far more sports bars than politico hangouts, which might explain why only about 20 people gathered to watch the debate in Portland's Café Royale, located just 2 miles from the Capitol, on Friday night. As Kerry and Bush traded blows over Iraq, the restaurant's waiters certainly seemed fired up, sneaking away from their tables to pop into the bar and peek at the goings-on. One waiter snuck into the bar and made shadow-boxing moves in imitation of what was happening on screen.
Chris Champion, former assistant to past Republican mayor Skip Rimsza, sat at the bar. Champion, an independent, declared the debate a draw. The presidential race, he said, "is still up in the air." But that's not how the rest of the crowd saw it. When Kerry declared that he'd done something the president didn't know how to do -- "balance a budget" -- a big whoop filled the place. A man who had been quietly enjoying his drink blurted out, "Kerry has stage presence!" Red state Arizona was looking rather blue.