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Viewing the Romney-Obama debate in battleground Ohio: a tribal experience

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Mr. Romney won applause and laughter when he turned the tables on Mr. Obama over the bailout of the auto industry. It was the president, in fact, who “took Detroit bankrupt,” Romney said. Romney’s mention of “that pipeline from Canada,” the Keystone XL pipeline, which he supports, in contrast to Obama, also won applause.

When Romney stood his ground in the face of attempted interruptions by Obama – “You'll get your chance in a moment. I'm still speaking,” Romney said –his supporters cheered. This contrasts with the reactions of undecided voters, who (we later learned from focus groups) did not like the moments when the two contenders moved into close physical proximity and talked over each other and over the moderator, CNN’s Candy Crowley.

Perhaps the most emotionally involved debate-watcher in the room was Pamela Lanier of Columbus, who shook her fist at the TV screen when Obama spoke about small businesses.

“I’m a small-business owner,” Ms. Lanier told Ms. Freeman. “Obama wasn’t in there turning on the lights and emptying the trash. I employ five women.”

Time now to migrate to the Obama tribe, gathered in a movie theater at the Ohio State University (OSU). We walk in to a sea of faces – mostly college students, some campaign volunteers and staff, and the Democratic nominee for Ohio’s Third Congressional District, Joyce Beatty – all trained on giant Romney and giant Obama on the big screen. It’s tuned to MSNBC, of course. 

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