As Barack Obama and Mitt Romney faced off inside DU's Magness Arena, thousands gathered outside to watch the debate and to protest.  

Here's a transcript of a report from CPR's Ben Markus:

Reporter Ben Markus: I’m Ben Markus, outside the debate hall where there was a massive party and plenty of protesters. Susan Kaplan was one of the first people to arrive at "DebateFest," an outdoor fusion of music and politics.  She’s an adjunct professor at DU, and she waited in line for an hour to get in.

Susan Kaplan: To support an engaged open process, have people together talking, so we’ll see how much people talk with each other.

Reporter: Dozens of interest groups had tents at DebateFest, including ACLU Colorado, supporters of the anti-abortion Personhood initiative, and Hispanic Republicans.  Other activists protested on the streets outside. Supporters of Gary Johnson, the Libertarian presidential candidate, were out in force.  Josh Pendleton lamented the lack of a third party candidate in the debates.

Josh Pendleton:  This debate is, in my opinion, is a sham.  There’s not nearly enough differences between the two candidates.  The differences are superficial.

Reporter: In addition, there were demonstrators on both sides of the abortion debate; others protested China’s communist regime.  DU Chancellor Robert Coombe said none of that dampened the debate festivities. 

Robert Coombe: You know it’s a university - free speech is what it’s about, right? People voicing their opinions.

Reporter: As the sun set, the weather turned bitterly cold, and giant TVs fired up in the DebateFest grounds.

Jim Lehrer: Good evening from the Magness Arena at the University....[crowd cheering]

Reporter: Every time moderator Jim Lehrer or Mitt Romney or Barack Obama mentioned the University of Denver, the crowd went crazy. After the debate Olivia Kyle, a DU law student wearing an Obama t-shirt said Romney’s strong showing didn’t persuade her.

Olivia Kyle: He talks a lot about, you know, high level moral kind of issues, and he doesn’t have a lot of concrete plans he likes to articulate. 

Reporter: But Denver resident Jonathan Gailey was swayed by the GOP candidate.

Jonathan Gailey: I actually was very impressed, and I was surprised by Romney.  He has excellent responses, very concrete.  I think logically he kind of shredded Obama.

Reporter: Gailey said he was undecided entering the debate.  Now, he says he’ll vote for Romney.

[Photo: University of Denver]