Political New Yorkers Turn Out For State of the Union Watch Party

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President Obama may have discussed “winning the future” in his State of the Union address, but a watch party thrown by WNYC Radio definitely won the night.

A fired-up crowd of political junkies filled The Greene Space, where they got their pictures taken with President Obama (well, a cardboard cutout, at least) in a photo booth, played State of the Union Bingo, and sipped free beer from Brooklyn Brewery.

The party was hosted by WNYC’s Brian Lehrer (“The Brian Lehrer Show”) and Brooke Gladstone (“On The Media.”) They were joined by bloggers from WNYC’s politics website, “It’s A Free Country,” and representatives from Brooklyn’s New Kings Democrats and Manhattan’s Tea Party 365.

Lehrer told Niteside that he was looking forward to hearing a “nation-building speech” from President Obama.

“I think that the President is going to try to say the long-term key to our economy is to build and to educate and to innovate,” he said. “He’s going to lay out an industrial policy, where he’s going to say despite the recession, despite the need to cut back on a lot of things because of the deficit, strategic investments are the things that are going to set us up for the long term.”

WNYC conducted an online poll to get New Yorker's reactions to this year's seating mix-up, where representatives ventures across the aisle and sat with colleagues from the opposite party.

New Yorkers were into the new approach, Lehrer said.

“I mean this is New York, so there are more liberals than conservatives,” Lehrer said. “There were some people who were eager to call into the show on the air and say, ‘Here the Democrats go again, being Mr. Nice Guys, and the Republicans are just playing along for the moment.’

"There are certainly people who feel that way, but when we did the online poll, people overwhelmingly said, ‘Yes, I like this.’”

Yet Karol Markowicz, a conservative contributor to “It’s A Free Country,” disagreed.

“I think it’s such a gimmick,” she said. “I think it’s ridiculous, it’s a complete performance art piece.”

After the speech ended, Niteside caught up with David Webb, co-founder of Tea Party 365, to get his reaction.

“Look, it was a standard State of the Union speech, it was well delivered,” he said. “You never hear specifics in the State of the Union, you hear the platitudes. Whether it’s a Democrat or Republican president, that’s the same. What’s really going to matter is what happens tomorrow morning when they wake up and get to work.”

Jami Floyd, a legal expert and former Clinton aide who also blogs for “It’s A Free Country, agreed that it was important to keep the State of the Union address in perspective.

“In the end it’s just a speech,” she said. “What President Obama does in the next twelve months will determine the next election—not a single speech in a single night.”

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