WASHINGTON — Americans of all stripes watching Tuesday night's presidential face-off will be constantly toasting their candidate or drowning their sorrows as debate-related drinking games surge in popularity.
The election-related fun took off two weeks ago when US President Barack Obama squared off against Republican Mitt Romney in their debut showdown, and the liquor and beer is expected to flow again among watchers of Round 2.
Several games, each with prominently placed advice to "please drink responsibly," have popped up on the Internet, including the "Town Hall Showdown" featured on the Washington website Cloture Club, which gives a nod to the town hall format of Tuesday's debate.
Its rules are comically straightforward: "Drink if a candidate says "unemployment or economy, single mother or parent, PBS or Big Bird, health care or Obamacare, education, immigration or aliens, social security, Solyndra, 47 percent or 100 percent, or China."
A tamer version is on DebateDrinking.com, which asks participants to pick a candidate, then drink whenever their man says a key word. "Tax cuts" for Obama, versus "Spending" for Romney. "Congress" for the incumbent, "Israel" for the challenger.
Still too sober? It adds a kicker. "Each time you see your candidate force an awkward grin or laugh while his opponent is insulting him or disparaging his policies -- Take a drink."
The National Journal recommends sipping once if Obama brings up the Massachusetts health care law signed by Romney, or if either candidate panders to the hometown of a questioner.
But two sips are in order if "an actual unemployed person gets to ask either candidate a question," or if Obama "channels (Joe) Biden and laughs through a response from Romney," as the vice president did last week during his debate with Romney running mate Paul Ryan.
Scott Auslander, owner of the Ventnor Sports Cafe in the hyper-political capital Washington, said the web is largely responsible for the surge in politically-themed drinking games.
"The Internet, Twitter -- it's crazy because it has spread everything out," said Auslander, whose bar is hosting a Bingo-themed game Tuesday rather than a straightforward guzzler, out of concern over what 90 minutes of heavy drinking would do to his patrons.
But he said several folks sat at the bar during the first debate unfolded copies of drinking games that they printed from online, and proceeded to take shots any time one of the candidates mentioned words like "middle class" or "Iran."
"It's a little lighter, a little more fun, especially in a town where everyone takes this stuff so seriously," he said.