The gathering was small. Four people. Five. Ten. They trickled in.
A hippie. A confused teenager. A young abstainer battling the forces of evil via Playstation, oblivious to Tuesday’s presidential debate.
Mostly, they watched, peaceful and quiet. They learned. They came away more certain, less certain, victorious, bewildered.
Some think of them as kids. The future. College students.
And they cared, deeply, this small sampling of 20-somethings who gathered to participate in history Tuesday night, if only by learning a thing or two about Democratic candidate Barack Obama and Republican nominee John McCain.
Did you learn anything, undecided first-time voter Sonya Kausar, of the confused and bewildered class?
“More than I thought I would,” she said when the debate was over.
Kausar, 19, acknowledged that she’d gotten a late start on this whole presidential race thing.
She is trying to make up for lost time, learning and reading. It is difficult, she said, because just about everyone she knows is a fan of Barack Obama. That makes objectivity a goal, rather than a truth.
“I am having trouble,” she said after the debate, which she watched with a small group of people in the student union at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
On campus, near campus and at home, UNLV students watched the presidential debate with the same bated breath as everyone else, or sometimes, for those who have already decided, with the same raucous pith.
“You tell ’em Obama,” came a shout from somewhere in the crowd at Stephano’s, an off-campus joint.
The Young Democrats gathered there to watch the debate. Smoke wafted from the hookahs in the back. Flippancy wafted from the young and certain.
“The fact is he’s not a maverick any more,” opined the group’s 22-year-old vice president Destiny Farr when asked how she thought John McCain was doing.
Farr gave Obama points for putting forth ideas. She deducted them from McCain for talking about the past.
Maureen Gregory, 20, the Young Democrats executive director, acknowledged her bias. She is black, grew up in the South, and has relatives who participated in the civil rights movement of yore.
“I’ve been a Democrat since before I knew what a Democrat was,” she said.
Loren Baum is far to the left of the Democrats. He is a hippie. The man with long brown hair wore a tie-dyed T-shirt to the union to watch the debate.
Baum is a yoga teacher on campus. The philosophy major quit school a while ago to go to India to study. He will probably go back to school, someday.
Baum is an Obama supporter. And yet he came away disappointed Tuesday night.
“Neither of them answered the questions,” he said.
A couple of young Republicans disagreed with that. The group did not have a gathering, not a formal one anyway. It takes time to set that up, and things got in the way.
But a couple of them watched anyway, away from the loud hippies, that guy on the Playstation over in the corner and the campus undecideds.
“If you’re undecided at this point, I find that almost shocking,” said one of the Republicans, Dan Hill, 22.
He and his buddy, Ryan Hamilton, 22, watched the debate at Hill’s house in Henderson.
They were impressed by McCain, not so much by Obama.
“McCain did much better than he did in the last debate,” said Hamilton. Obama, he insisted, was “yammering on” all night.
“McCain was spot on,” he declared.
Hill agreed with that analysis. He spent the moments after the debate channel surfing, letting his indignation rise at the instant analysis generated by cable news stations.
Hill said none of it made much sense to him. But his mind is made up.
“I was not a huge John McCain fan,” Hill said. “But I’m liking him more and more.”
And so there it is. McCain secured his fans. Obama secured his.
Which leaves the confused, the Sonya Kausars, less than four weeks to figure out the truth.
Contact reporter Richard Lake at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0307.