The Capitol Hill watering hole fills up for debate-watching parties, complete with candidate catchphrase bingo.

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It’s Thursday night, and all eyes in Moe Bar on Capitol Hill are not on smartphones. They’re on the bar’s TV screens, where four men in suits are shouting.

It’s debate bingo night.

Before each political debate, the bar’s bingo host, Matt Hickey, writes up a list of possible catchphrases, puts them into a bingo software system and — presto — prints debate bingo cards with amusing, if inexact, lingo related to the most recent shoutfest. Cross out five squares in a row and win a free drink.


Moe Bar Viewing Party Drinking Bingo

• 6 p.m. Sunday, March 6, Democratic debate viewing party

• 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 9, Democratic debate viewing party

• 6 p.m. Thursday, March 10, Republican debate viewing party

Moe Bar, 1425 10th Ave., Seattle; 206-709-9951

Hickey has been hosting the bar’s bingo parties since the 2012 election cycle. “I don’t have cable and wanted to watch the debates. We had a pretty good group of happy-hour regulars and they all wanted to watch it,” Hickey said.

A news junkie who contributes to Forbes, he takes careful notes each week to create his bingo cards. “If something happens that I think is hilarious, I add it,” he said.

Thursday night’s bingo card for the Republican debate (featuring Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, John Kasich and Marco Rubio) had this header: “We miss Ben Carson too,” with a frowny face.

“When Ben Carson was there they were the funniest,” Hickey said. “You never knew what he was going to say.”

Among Thursday night’s squares were “Hillary’s emails,” “Kasich reminds us he’s still there,” “Anyone mentions Jeb!” — complete with the exclamation point.

Quinton Harris, 33, of Fairbanks, Alaska, was killing time with bingo before his band, Breaks & Swells, played the Bowie cover show at Barboza downstairs. He didn’t have many squares crossed off.

He thought one square in particular, “Cruz says something sensible,” might go unmarked.

”He says a lot of things in a sensible-sounding way but they are often insane,” Harris said.

But not long after, Cruz proclaimed that Trump would be a bad president.

“X” marks the spot.

Moderator Megyn Kelly questioned Trump about a New York Times “off-the-record interview,” where he had reportedly said he didn’t plan on building a border wall, contradicting previous remarks.

Maybe the “Trump goes off on Megyn Kelly” box could be crossed off.

Instead, he demurred. “I may have said something — I’m very flexible,” Trump said, shrugging.

Then he launched into his pledgeabout Mexico paying for the border wall. You could almost hear the pens scratching off the square, “Trump mentions his border wall.”

Katie Gozart, 33, had come for after-work drinks with a colleague and stayed for the bingo. Her husband joined her. She was just one square away from a free drink. She wasn’t sure whether she could cross off her one remaining box: “Trump doubles down on the Muslim thing.”

“He was talking about terrorists, so I wasn’t sure what he meant,” she said.

Like Hickey, she and her husband no longer have cable, or a TV for that matter. “We watch highlights on our computer,” said Ben Gozart. “It’s fun to watch it here, especially when you have a free drink,” he said. “I’ll buy a drink, anyway.”

With someone like Trump in the GOP debates, one might assume that the Democratic debates are less exciting. “That’s plenty fun too,” Hickey said, “between Hillary’s emails and Bernie’s hair.” (Sample Dem boxes: “Hillary’s Wall Street speeches,” “Bernie supports guns” and “Hillary’s emails.”)

This being Moe Bar, and Capitol Hill, it was unlikely that many Republicans were in the room, but Hickey said he wasn’t so sure: “The couple at the end of the bar is undecided,” he said. “They don’t like Hillary.”

By the end of the debate, the bar was full; but not as jammed as the first two GOP debates or the first DNC sparring session. “I can’t wait for the general,” Hickey said.

Just then, a commercial ended, and the candidates were at it again. Hickey perked up. “I hope I didn’t miss a square!”