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State of the Union viewing parties, drinking games make annual address more palatable

President Obama. (Reuters/Jose Luis Magana)

Time for the yearly event that Washington loves to hate: the State of the Union address. There's no getting around it -- anyone involved in politics has to tune in Wednesday, and you can't fast-forward through the boring parts.

"Like the prostate exam, it's annual, compulsory and unwelcome," said Tucker Carlson, founder of the Daily Caller. "So you do the best you can to make it fun."

Watch-parties were invented to make the night a little less tedious -- but even those are scaled back. Budget cuts have killed off the more lavish gatherings, such as the National Journal's pre-speech reception, although the company is still hosting a smaller viewing in New York for media types. (Go figure.) Virginia's own Gov. Bob McDonnell is delivering the GOP response, but there are only a handful of watch-parties for Republicans. "Why would you go to a party and get depressed?" said Americans for Tax Reform's Grover Norquist.

But still, true believers and political wonks make do. The DNC is asking supporters to hold parties in their communities and is dangling a phoner with Obama campaign manager David Plouffe (woo-hoo!). Busboys and Poets is offering an open mike before the speech. And the Center for Global Development is playing an earnest SOTU bingo game, with squares labeled "HIV/AIDS," "Poverty" and "Millennium Challenge."

But most watch-parties are nothing more than an excuse for partisan drinking. The just-launched Daily Caller, hosting its first bash, is expecting a large crowd at George bar in Georgetown for its own version of SOTU bingo and other games: When Obama says, "This will not be easy," "let me be clear" or "bipartisan," guests take a swig; if the camera shows Rep. Joe Wilson, everyone is supposed to yell "You lie!" and then take a drink. You get the drill.

If the pre-speech predictions are true (jobs, more jobs, morer jobs), then the president will be blamed for a bunch of hangovers Thursday morning. "If he starts fighting for the middle class in the middle of the speech, there are going to be some really drunk people at our party," said Carlson.

By The Reliable Source  |  January 26, 2010; 1:03 AM ET
Categories:  Parties , Politics  
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