Suncoast residents take in first presidential debate

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SARASOTA - Suncoast residents -- whether on college campuses or from the comfort of their own home – were watching the 1st presidential debate of 2012 Wednesday night. There were few options for big debate watch parties in Sarasota County, but that didn't stop potential voters from listening to what the 2 candidates had to say.

As President Obama and Mitt Romney shook hands, students at New College of Florida took a seat in the campus dining hall to watch the first debate unfold.

“They are pretty interesting. The dialogue between the candidates…it gives you a good feel compared to the commercials,” said student Tessa Grasel.

Most of the students will tell you they support President Obama. “I haven’t heard Mitt Romney come out with any concrete plans. That's what is important to me listening to this debate,” said student Michael Long.

A few miles away from the New College campus, the chairman of Sarasota County's Republican Party, Joe Gruters, was also listening to the debate from home.

“You are able to see the candidates answer questions without prompters, saying it right to the public without any interference,” says Gruters.

He says Governor Romney was impressive, touching on the most crucial topic of this year’s election. “He's all about jobs. Every topic they talk about comes back to jobs and the economy and how he is going to take America back to work.”

Neither of the county's Democratic or Republican parties held official watch parties for the debate, but they will during the next presidential debate on October 16th.

Democrats are holding their function at the Bay Plaza Building located at 1255 Gulfstream Avenue in downtown Sarasota, while county Republicans will watch the debate at Gecko's Pub and Grill at its 5585 Palmer Crossing location near Clark Road.