Channel 2 political reporter Richard Elliot got a behind-the-scenes look at the soundstage.
Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images
Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Atlanta reacts | Who won the Democratic presidential debate? 

10 Democratic White House hopefuls debated Wednesday at Tyler Perry Studios

Democratic voters in Atlanta who watched 10 of their party’s presidential contenders debate Wednesday night are worried the party has lurched so far to the left it has become virtually unrecognizable. 

That was the consensus of many of the voters who participated in a focus group assembled by WSB Radio 95.5 and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The group of Democrats and Independents watched the debate and then responded immediately afterward in a live stream that was featured on WSB 95.5’s Facebook page.

»MORE: Impeachment hearings play lead role on Democratic debate stage

Atlanta was the focus of the nation’s political attention Wednesday night, as the candidates met for a fifth time during a debate at Tyler Perry Studios.

“I’m concerned the party is moving too far to the left,” said 26-year-old Partha Chakraborty, who lives in Atlanta and is a supporter of South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. 

Corey Louchiey, 48, a Smyrna, Georgia, businessman and former member of the Atlanta Falcons, agreed, saying “I’ve always considered myself center to left, but I’m worried the country has been moving so far to the right that we have to go so far to the left. 

“I don’t want to waste my vote, but going forward, I’ve got to ask, who up there on that stage could truly change my son’s life?”

»MORE: GOP members watch, strategize as Dem hopefuls debate

Many of the group’s participants would also like to see more substance and less theater from the candidates.

“We’ve had enough drama,” said Georgia State University law professor Tanya Washington. “I like Elizabeth Warren because she has well-thought-out plans that recognize the reality of the issues we need to address.”

More than one of the focus group members were annoyed the debate opened with questions about President Donald Trump’s impeachment hearings.

»PHOTOS: Atlanta’s Democratic presidential debate

“That doesn’t do much for me,” said Ben Bussard, 31, who lives in East Atlanta.  “We’re going to vote for the nominee regardless of who it is. The Democratic Party should reach more casual voters and determine how to get them motivated.”

Channel 2's Dave Huddleston was with people at a watch party at Manuel's Tavern.
Video: AP Photo/John Bazemore

All of the group agreed that Georgia is a battleground state. 

“No question, Georgia is in play,” said Niles Francis, 18, a South Cobb High School student who will vote in his first presidential election in 2020. “The reason the debate was held in Atlanta is because Georgia is a battleground state. To spin it otherwise is wrong.”

»PHOTOS: Atlanta’s Democratic presidential debate

Some voters were impressed with U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris. “I was really proud of her performance because she talked about protecting women in the workplace,” said Atlanta attorney Ashlyn Martin, 36.

Martin also appreciated Harris’ argument with Buttigieg over his resonance with African-American voters. “If you don’t have an authentic connection with African-American female voters, you won’t have a chance at the White House,” the voter said. 

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s continuing gaffes surprised no one. “He was the vice president?” Louchiey said. “I can’t believe that.”

»MORE: Biden’s gaffe, Klobuchar’s hair dominate Atlanta debate social media

The group also predicted the next candidates to drop out of the race will be U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, billionaire entrepreneur Tom Steyer and former U.S. Treasury Secretary Julian Castro. 

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