Though plenty watched the GOP primary debate at local bars last night, one of the liveliest crowds gathered at beloved P Street NW gay bar Number Nine.
Walking up the steep steps, away from the hip, dimly lit first floor crowd and pumping music, a loud buzz emanated from the bar’s second story as patrons waited for the debate to begin.
“Figured it’d be a bit entertaining to watch in here, of all places,” said U Street corridor resident Phil Ryan. “You always get a good reaction.”
As 7 p.m. crept closer, the crowd milled around the increasingly busy bar, casually glancing at the four television screens for any sign of the candidates.
“This is the most D.C. thing,” said one man about the irony of a mostly-liberal bar watching a political event from the opposite aisle.
That liberalism showed when smiling candidates took the stage, introduced by FOX News debate moderator Megyn Kelly.
While Senator Ted Cruz and Governor Chris Christie received a round of resounding boos, it was business magnate and political troll Donald Trump who, possibly in jest, earned cheers and applause from one side of the elbow-brushing room.
It was soon clear that many in attendance were there solely for Trump’s antics.
For instance, when Trump raised his hand indicating he would consider running as a third party candidate, the entire floor erupted in a unified “Whoa.”
“I knew we’d all laugh at Trump,” Ryan said. “I mean, that’s part of the reason we’re all watching this.”
Cackles and shocked “ohs,” erupted from the crowd after Trump stood by calling Rosie O’Donnell a “fat pig,” and when Trump bashed politicians “who get in bed with lobbyists of special interests,” one man shouted, “if they’re hot!”
But even Trump’s awkward demeanor and brash misogyny couldn’t quite keep the crowd’s full attention, even in the first hour. As questions bounced from Trump to Dr. Ben Carson, the previously silent and attentive crowd grew increasingly louder and more distracted.
And while some clearly awaited the funny moments, others seemed to agree on a few of the candidates’ points. For example, after Kelly asked Christie about entitlement programs, a silence fell over the room, and one man turned to his friend and said, “that’s … legit.”
It was clear Ohio Gov. John Kasich won the crowd over, at least for a moment, when he said: “If one of my daughters happened to be [gay], of course I would love them and I would accept them.” Throughout the night, Kasich continued to elicit applause and cheers for his comments on equality.
Final verdict? Unknown. But as the crowd thinned out onto P Street, Ryan said that whoever earns the GOP nomination, it won’t be Trump.
“He’s just trolling,” Ryan said.