Atlantic County Democrats and Republicans gathered, separately, to watch the first of three presidential debates two miles away from each other Wednesday night.
Both groups drew about 35 attendees, served refreshments, and both parties thought their candidate won the debate.
At the debate in Denver, the crowd was required to be silent. This was not the case at the viewing parties.
On the Black Horse Pike in Pleasantville, the Atlantic County Democrats watched at their headquarters in the dark, projecting the debate on the wall. A life-sized Barack Obama cut-out stood up against the wall.
When President Obama spoke about retirement vouchers, the crowd laughed and cheered.
When former Gov. Mitt Romney spoke about regulations, the crowd laughed and booed.
On the Black Horse Pike in Egg Harbor Township, Republicans watched at their headquarters with the lights on, on a television. When Obama spoke about the economy he inherited, one viewer played an imaginary violin. When he spoke about bio-fuel, the whole crowd booed. Romney spoke the words, “coal,” or “middle income,” or “small business,” to a roomful of applause.
After the first 30 minutes, Republican watchers said they felt confident. Egg Harbor Township Committeeman Joe Cafero said he felt Romney looked strong.
“Obama looks very nervous,” he said. “He looks like a deer in headlights.”
“Well, he’s off teleprompter,” Linda Biamonte, of Egg Harbor Township said. “He’s very afraid he’s going to have a Biden moment. Romney is in charge right now.”
“And Romney has given specifics, and showing you all the particulars of the way things are going, how things are, what you need to do,” Cafero said.
Robert Herman, a Linwood attorney, watched the debate with the Democrats. He said he felt like Mitt Romney was having identity issues.
“It’s been interesting. You get the opportunity to watch two very intelligent people discuss very interesting topics,” he said. “But, very bluntly President Obama is taking Gov. Romney to school. Gov. Romney seems uncomfortable at times. In other words, I don’t think he’s as conservative as he tries to portray himself.”
David Mitchell, of Absecon, also thought it went in Obama’s favor.
“Obama’s talking about bringing in more jobs, setting up more revenue, stopping tax cuts to big companies,” he said.
Back in Egg Harbor Township, Nick LaRotonda, chairman of the College Republican’s at ACCC, had hoped that Romney would come out strong in the debate. After the debate, LaRotonda said Romney delivered.
“He won hands-down. He did a great job on his closing remarks,” he said. I like how he put in there that when he went into Massachusetts, it was all Democrats but that he was bipartisan with them to create jobs. That’s what he hopes to do in the White House. He was friendly, and he was on the offensive at all times. Obama was on the defensive at all times.”
Herman said that it was great debate, but when it was over, he said he felt that Obama was the winner. He called it a great debate, and said that he enjoyed the choreography of two great debaters.
“What I thought was the coolest part of the debate was how Governor Romney was trying to bait Barack Obama into something, like talking about Bain Capital, and he wasn’t really falling into it,” he said. “By the same token, you have Obama who is a very likable guy, and Romney tried to draw him off-kilter, and you’re seeing Obama not trying to get drawn off-kilter.”
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