America wakes up to Boca Ratonby Palm Beach Post Staff | October 22nd, 2012
By Eliot Kleinberg, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
BOCA RATON — America woke up to Mizner Park.
Or, at least, viewers of “Morning Joe,” the popular MSNBC news and talk program featuring former U.S. Congressman Joe Scarborough.
Monday morning’s show, at Rack’s Tavern, lit the darkened shopping center with its big lights — all except the part of the center already lit, at the north end, where thousands are expected tonight for a watch party, to view a giant screen showing the fourth and final presidential debate, live from Boca’s Lynn University.
Lous Biello of Boynton Beach and Shellee Trossman of Davie — both “avid fans of the show,” Lois said — said they were thrilled that the eyes of America are on Boca Raton for tonight’s climactic faceoff.
Biello, coincidentally, is a graduate of Hofstra University, the Long Island school that hosted last week’s debate.
While many in the crowd shouted, “Obama, Obama,” — Scarborough’s Republican but the rest of the network’s talk shows lean left — Fran O’Keefe of Boynton Beach stood quietly, his “Romney” T-shirt speaking for him.
“I watch every time,” O’Keefe said, “He was actually my favorite Congressman, but he aggravates the hell out of me sometimes when he doesn’t push back hard enough.”
There were the usual people with signs — in this case folks complaining that none of the debates so far mentioned the plight of the homeless or people with HIV.
“Make HIV an issue! Say something on the show!” one man shouted as Scarborough and co-host Mika Brzezinski worked the crowd during a break.
Jim and Donna McGreal of Hamilton, Ontario, who winter in Fort Myers, were watching the whole thing like Yankees fans at a Marlins-Braves game.
“In Canada, signs are popular,” Jim said. “You have mostly TV advertisements.”
He bemoaned the nastiness of the U.S. campaign but said with almost a sigh that it’s sometimes nasty north of the border as well.
“There just seems to be so much disrespect for the individual,” he said. “Anybody that runs for public office should be honored. Not ridiculed.”
Florida, always a make-or-break state in presidential elections, “has been the center of politics for a long time,” NBC political analyst Mark Halperin said as he walked through the tables. “It’s nice to see people engaged.”
Palm Beach County Commissioner Steve Abrams was running for Boca Raton mayor in November 2000, the last time Palm Beach County was the center of the political universe — for all the wrong reasons.
He says he still bristles at the jokes about dumb Floridians following the monthlong presidential recount; ridicule he says was completely unfounded. He had visited Lynn Monday morning and declared the debate venue flawlessly prepared.
“If there’s going to be a gaffe tonight,” he said. “It’s going to have to be one of the candidates.”