"I guarantee you one thing -- Dukakis will not be giving the commencement speech at West Point in 1990." With that pronouncement, Tom Vanderlip, who admitted he was going to vote for George Bush, summed up Thursday night's presidential debate.
But the South Buffalo bar own er went one step further: "If this was a heavyweight fight, then Dukakis' people would have thrown in the towel." The debate between Michael Dukakis and Bush was the main attraction in Tom and Jerry's Pub, 2106 Seneca St. Sometimes watch ing the television over the bar at tentively and sometimes ignoring the politicians altogether, patrons seemed to enjoy the debate. "In my opinion this debate's a lot better than the first one," said Dana Potwin. "But they're still not addressing the issues." In the heart of Democratic South Buffalo, it seems that some of the vote that President Reagan captured four years ago belongs to Bush this time around. "I was going to vote for Bush at 8," Vanderlip said, referring to the time that he planned to vote on Election Day. "Now I'm going to vote for him at 7." "As a lifelong Democrat, I'd love to vote for Bush and Bent sen," said Neil O'Rourke, pairing the GOP presidential nominee with Dukakis' running mate, Tex as Sen. Lloyd Bentsen. Tom and Jerry's is a cozy bar where bartender Stan Lipinski ad monishes customers to watch their language when women are present, and patrons are not strangers for long. The commentary got under way quickly. "They're never going to give up on Quayle," one customer said. "I lost him on that," said an other about a Dukakis answer. "What's a COLA?" asked several about the acronym for cost of liv ing adjustment. Bush's response to the abortion question, recalling the death of his own child from leukemia, was the turning point, according to the pundits sitting around the bar sip ping beer. "He's hitting home," said Van derlip, a Conservative Party mem ber. "He just spiked him," agreed Potwin, who was watching the de bate with his wife, Darlene. Potwin said he likes Dukakis' stand on national health care. "I make enough so I am not on welfare, but I can't afford to have anybody hospitalized," he said. "That's the biggest concern of mine, the welfare of my kids. If they get sick, I can't help them." While some were avidly inter ested in the debate, others were more interested in debating among themselves and had to be cautioned by Vanderlip to "termi nate your loquaciousness." Those who thought the debate was a lot of hot air included one woman who said, "The only presi dent I wanted was John Kenne dy." "I really want to watch for John Wayne," another man said. O'Rourke, a Democrat from North Buffalo, said Dukakis "got beat up" on the question about modern heroes, when he named Dr. Jonas Salk, the developer of the polio vaccine. "That's a Harvard answer, that's not a Democrat answer," he said. As the debate ended at 10:30 and Bush was proclaimed the win ner, talk turned to more mundane things like getting a bite to eat and the Buffalo Bills. "I just think whoever wins, it's going to be an interesting four years," Potwin said.