It’s opening night for the Democrats and fans will be gathering in living rooms and bars around the Philadelphia region.
It’s early, but one sign of local grassroots support for the 24 Democrats running for president is whether anyone’s signed up with a campaign to throw an “official” debate watch party. The debates, Wednesday and Thursday at 9 p.m., will be broadcast live from Miami on NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo.
Here’s a look at which candidates have watch parties in the Philadelphia area. Keep in mind, some campaigns might push supporters to sign up to host watch parties more aggressively than others. Also, in some cases, a watch party is not a physical get together but someone who has agreed to host a Facebook Live watch event for their friends (see Joe Biden supporter down below).
Nine of the 20 candidates taking the stage this week have watch parties nearby that are mentioned on a candidate’s website and available for the public to sign up to attend.
Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have the most watch parties here, followed by Biden and Pete Buttigieg. We talked to some of the hosts to find out who they are and why they already know who they’re cheering for on TV this week. Candidates are listed in order of the number of local parties.
The Vermont senator has at least five Philly watch parties, including one hosted by Dave Deming. Deming, 30, a cancer researcher and doctoral student, is hosting an event in his den in Graduate Hospital. He expects about a dozen people to come over for the event.
Deming, who backed Sanders last time around, signed up to host through the “BERN” app. He likes Sanders single-payer health insurance plan and his stance on getting corporate money out of politics.
Nationwide, Sanders’ campaign has the most parties listed of any candidate — at least 900 nationwide. Warren is next (525) followed by Buttigieg (276) and then Biden (193).
The Philadelphia Chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America is also hosting a watch party for Sanders, who was endorsed by the group. It’s at the First Unitarian Church at 2125 Chestnut St.
A local grassroots group, Philly for Warren, is hosting a watch party at Field House, 1150 Filbert St.
Jon Geeting, an 18th Ward committee person, helped form the group, now up to 1,000 members, about a month ago.
While Biden already has the backing of several elected party leaders in the city and Sanders has a considerable base from his last run, including groups like Reclaim, Geeting said he’s seen Warren excitement growing here as she rises in the polls.
People are also gathering to cheer Warren on in Lansdowne, Havertown, and Cherry Hill.
Biden’s campaign headquarters will soon land in Philadelphia, but so far the only watch party on his website in the city is in West Philadelphia and it’s actually not a physical event. Susan Freed Smith is hosting a Facebook Live watch event online. The former vice president also has listed parties in West Chester, Media, and Woodbury.
Freed Smith, 62, said she sees Biden as having the best chance at beating President Trump and thinks he can unite the Democratic party.
Buttigieg has supporters gathering in Lower Bucks, North Wales, at the University of Pennsylvania, and in Center City at Tabu bar.
Nathan Osburn, a former Obama administration speech writer, helped create the Philly for Pete group, which is now up to about 500 members, he said. The members represented Buttigieg in the Philadelphia Pride parade and hosted Buttigieg’s husband, Chasten, this spring. Osburn, 39, who lives in Fishtown, organized the Tabu watch party, which is open to anyone interested, and he thinks will draw about 30 people.
Jess Drass, 38, an art therapist and University of the Arts professor, has liked O’Rourke since his failed but closer-than-expected Texas race against Sen. Ted Cruz last year. Drass is hosting about 25 people in her apartment in Haddonfield. She hasn’t seen much Philly or South Jersey support for O’Rourke but said she hopes the debate shows off more of what she likes about him — his pragmatism and focus on listening to voters.
A woman in Newtown is hosting a watch party via Skype for supporters of the California senator.
The New Jersey senator and former mayor of Newark will have some fans gathered in Hatfield.
There’s a watch party for supporters of the Minnesota Senator in Haddon Heights.