Are ya ready for some … politics?!
Thousands of Southern Californians sure were ready as the big presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump commanded TV screens usually tuned to “Monday Night Football” at area bars and restaurants — and on this night, even at a couple of comedy clubs.
Partisan “debate viewing parties’’ took place around the area and around the nation while Clinton and Trump squared off for what was expected to be a Super Bowl-sized TV audience.
The showdown at Hofstra University in the New York City suburb of Hempstead, N.Y., was the first of three scheduled debates between Clinton, the Democratic nominee, and Trump, the Republican.
At least 16 viewing parties were planned around Los Angeles — including, in the Santa Clarita area, a Democratic tailgate at Vincenzo’s Pizza in Newhall and a GOP cheering squad at the Salt Creek Grille in Valencia.
The Democratic caucus was sponsored by SCV 4 Hillary, Christy Smith for Assembly and the Bryan Caforio for Congress campaigns.
The Republican event was sponsored by the L.A. County Trump Campaign.
At Vincenzo’s, it was standing room only as supporters of Clinton, Smith and Caforio filled the 140-seat, campaign-festooned dining room and chowed down on their “pregame’’ pies. They heard brief thanks and pep talks from Smith and Caforio (“Let’s finally make Santa Clarita blue!”) before the night’s Main Event.
Melanie Paulsen, team leader of SCV 4 Hillary, also urged those in the audience stay alert, aid in fact-checking Trump — and then jump on social media with their reports.
When Clinton took the stage, cheers naturally erupted. When Trump entered, there were boos and scattered snickers, like a visiting quarterback hearing it from the home crowd.
Over at the decidedly more upscale Salt Creek Grille, about 75 Trump supporters – a handful wearing The Donald’s trademark “Make America Great Again” baseball caps — gathered over artisanal cheese plates, baked goat cheese marinara, stuffed jumbo shrimp and the like.
They watched intently but let loose with big cheers and whoops when, early on, their man zinged Clinton by saying, “I’ll release my tax returns when she releases her 33,000 emails.”
Only one contrarian could be spotted — a lone woman who presumably didn’t get the memo that, on this night, she was in Trump Territory. She sat with her back to the crowd, alone at the bar, heckling the TV whenever Trump went on offense.
So it went for 90 minutes, a pageant of pizza, pasta and politics.
Vincenzo’s owner, Steven Katz, took pains to say his establishment is nonpartisan in political matters – unlike the usual NFL Sunday, when it’s a decidedly pro-Rams venue.
Still, Katz said, he “couldn’t wait” for the debate to get started.
“I think the debate is going to be even more physical that the game,” he joked.