A mostly studious crowd of 100 or so John McCain supporters watched the presidential debate rather quietly at the McCain campaign's Southwest Regional Headquarters in Phoenix on Friday.
They chuckled and cheered at times during the televised forum, but generally they listened intently as both McCain and his Democratic opponent, Barack Obama, discussed their views on the financial crisis and foreign affairs.
Although the crowd appeared deeply on McCain's side even before the debate began, campaign workers said they were hopeful that the Republican nominee even won a few votes during the 90-minute debate.
"We don't know that they're all John McCain supporters," regional campaign manager Bettina Nava said near the end of the evening. "I mean, I hope there's some people here who are undecided."
The debate-watching event at the campaign headquarters was just one of 129 similar events arranged through McCain's campaign throughout the state, Nava said.
The first breakout moment of the night came in response to a line by McCain when moderator Jim Lehrer encouraged Obama to repeat an accusation he made against McCain directly to McCain.
"Were you afraid I couldn't hear him?" McCain asked Lehrer.
The crowd in Phoenix laughed and cheered, breaking what had been becoming an increasingly intense mood as the candidates discussed the economy.
Chandler computer consultant David Kolaja, 34, said he felt McCain ably explained his position on spending, despite Obama's charges that McCain's work on earmarks didn't amount to much.
"Obviously, (Obama) is trying to ping him saying, 'You didn't manage to cut very much spending.'" Kolaja said. "But at the same time, (McCain) is trying and he is fighting an inherent system that is full of corrupted Republicans and Democrats."
"I believe he really has been trying to cut spending, but there's a system in place against it," he said. "On both sides of the aisle, the spending is just out of control. They all have their pork projects."
Though Lehrer asked both candidates repeatedly how they would absorb the proposed $700 billion Wall Street bailout in their administration, neither provided a solid answer, Kolaja said.
"I'm not sure either of them knows," he said.
Mesa currier and process server Richard Younger, 34, said both candidates simply repeated their well-worn stump positions on Iraq and Afghanistan, but McCain won the point because his position is better.
"I'm very much in favor of what we did in Iraq. It was the right decision at the right time," he said.