It was Wednesday night and I was "Goin' to the candidates' debate," to quote Paul Simon, the singer-songwriter, not the Southern Illinois politician, in his song, "Mrs. Robinson."
He was being satirical but I couldn't keep that song out of my head during the whole thing even as a bunch of people were taking the matter more seriously than I was.
I thought I would get there early but by 6 p.m. people were lined up on the steps of Lindenwood University-Belleville's auditorium to get in for the 7 p.m. debate and it was difficult to find parking.
Best remark overheard outside before the debate about all the people there.
"It's a Belleville thing, like going to funerals for something to do."
The Belleville News-Democrat was one of the sponsors of this third debate in a series of three and distributed 760 tickets. The auditorium was not quite two-thirds full.
There had been a big demand for tickets which had sold out, or would have sold out except they were free, first-come, first-served. Even after more tickets were made available in the balcony, they sold out.
When the crowd applauded their own welcome from News-Democrat Publisher Jay Tebbe, it was obvious they were rarin' to go.
But then the rules were read asking that people remain seated, there be no audience interruptions, only polite applause and no boos or catcalls. That seemed to stun the audience.
There was no applause for a while.
The crowd began to loosen up after a few questions but there were only a couple of outbursts and only a few people yelling as they applauded.
That was in the crowd. On the stage there were several outbursts. Bill "I was commander of the Illinois National Guard" Enyart and Jason "I really don't like Barack Obama" Plummer clashed a few times and frequently accused each other of lying. Paula "I'm green and anti-war" Bradshaw seemed to just want peace.
When all was said, I doubt that anyone's mind was changed, particularly if he or she was wearing a sticker or shirt supporting a specific candidate which many were.
At the end, if there had been an applause-o-meter, Enyart would have won, but he was also the last to get applause. Plummer would have been a close second.
The best quote after the debate belonged to Green Party candidate Bradshaw when I asked her if she thought the debates would make any difference.
"I certainly hope so. It's my only chance," she said.
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