Democratic and Republican leaders in Pennsylvania acknowledged that Mitt Romney did well in his first Presidential debate against President Obama, but their assessments of who did best in Wednesday night's debate fell along party lines.
Pat Poprik, chair of the Bucks County Republican Committee, said he loved Romney's aggressiveness during the debate. "He stood up for himself, I was delighted with his performance tonight and it shows the public what kind of leader he can be. I think the strongest point [Romney] made tonight was how he wants to attack the deficit and the economy. His plan is real and valid. You have to stop spending, just like a household budget. Undoubtedly, Romney won tonight. There is no doubt in my mind he won tonight.”
Rick Daugherty, chair of the Lehigh County Democratic Committee and Democratic candidate for the 15th Congressional District seat, said Romney's performance was the best he's seen by him during the campaign. However, he said both President Obama and Romney did well.
"I thought President Obama was very clear on his policies the last four years and what he would be looking to do if re-elected," Daugherty said.
"The President always has a strong presence and a clear message in public forums, and he did so again last night." In his assessment, he said, Romney traditionally has not come across as well in public forums, particularly during the Republican primary, "but last night he did."
Also, Daugherty said he was surprised by some of Romney's pronouncements, particularly regarding tax breaks for those earning more than $250,000 and Medicare. He said Romney's statements were different from what he had remembered him saying previously and that he'd have to fact-check those.
Here's what other Democratic and Republican leaders had to say:
* Pennsylvania GOP Chairman Rob Gleason, in a prepared statement, said:
“Mitt Romney won tonight’s debate by illuminating the clear choice between his vision for a prosperous America and President Obama’s failed record. Pennsylvania voters who watched this debate saw a clear choice between a President who delivers flowery speeches filled with empty rhetoric or a real recovery under a Romney-Ryan Administration. Mitt Romney has proven today that he is ready to command and lead our nation towards a brighter and more prosperous future.”
* U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent, R-15th District:
"If this were Little League baseball, we would have had to invoke the mercy rule. Mitt Romney spent his time laying out a plan for America’s future. He drew sharp contrasts between the policies he supports and President Obama’s failed policies of Big Government spending and overreach. I think that Mitt Romney did a great job of reaching out to Independent voters and Democrats who are willing to look for a better answer with his great performance last night. He really did hit a homerun.”
* Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski, who was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention:
"Mitt Romney’s personal performance last night may have had style, but it was short on both substance and facts."
Pawlowski said President Obama may not have been on his 'A' game but he was trying to delve into specifics. Romney, on the other hand, he said, "talked alot and sounded confident" but showed a lack of understanding of basic math and he confused facts. Pawlowski said his fear is that Romney's policies would spell disaster for fragile urban economies.
* Pennsylvania Democratic Chairman Jim Burn, in a prepared statement:
“The President made a clear contrast in tonight’s debate, maintaining the high ground on the issues that matter most to middle-class Pennsylvanians....Tonight the people of Pennsylvania heard a solid case for going forward with investments that are working and that have resulted in 5.1 million jobs after 30 straight months of private-sector job growth versus a meritless case for going back to the same failed policies of the past that brought the nation to the brink of a second Great Depression – and I think the judgment of Pennsylvania voters on November 6 will be to continue moving forward, continue creating jobs, continue making investments that create a solid economic foundation.”
* Ryan Mackenzie, Republican candidate for Pennsylvania's 134th House seat,
“Gov. Romney won the debate last night because he laid out a clear choice for voters in November. He had a detailed plan that includes lower taxes, more jobs and help for the middle class vs. four more years of failed economic policy like we’ve seen already from President Obama.”
“Last night’s debate gave voters the chance to hear from Mitt Romney how his plan would turn the economy around – not just the misrepresentation portrayed by President Obama through 30 second T.V. ads.”
* Adrian Shanker, president of Equality Pennsylvania and an alternate delegate to the Democratic National Convention, said President Obama came off as presidential, a smart leader.
"Rhetoric flows high during campaign season, but it's important to understand that President Obama's record of providing economic stimulation for hard-working middle-class families has greatly benefitted a majority of Americans, including the LGBT community," Shanker said.
He said facts were "definitely lacking" from Romney's answers Wednesday night.
He also said, "Gov. Romney was very clear in his interest to repeal positive legislation that has helped our community. His goal is to turn back the clock on affordable health care for middle income Americans."
* Northampton County Democratic Chairman Walt Garvin referenced the strategy that Muhammad Ali employed in his 1974 heavyweight title fight against George Foreman -- the “Rumble in the Jungle.” Ali leaned on the ropes and allowed Foreman to pummel him for five rounds and wear himself out, before Ali took control and scored a knockout in Round 8.
“The thing I kept thinking about last night was ‘rope-a-dope.’ There are three rounds to this thing. Let (Romney) get everything out in the first.”
Garvin said there was a “noticeable” lack of discussion of Romney’s weaknesses, including his record at Bain Capital and the remark about 47 percent of the voters he made at a campaign fundraiser and his own taxes. “These are all weaknesses and they’re going to come out. If they want to score Round 1 for Romney, let ‘em go.”