DEBATING DYNAMITE: Rival Philadelphians Cheered, Groaned

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PHILA G.O.P. LOYALISTS gathered at Cavanaugh’s to watch first presidential debate — and, as evening wore on, to cheer lustily.

IN BETWEEN debate questions, Democrat 1st Ward Chairman Tom Rumbaugh signs up new voter registrant Chris Lenard as Ed Budwin, forefront, and Harold Higginbotham, rear, look on.

Shortly after the first presidential debate started, the atmosphere turned electric at Cavanaugh’s Restaurant in University City, where three dozen Republican activists from across Philadelphia were cheering on their challenger candidate Mitt Romney.

By the time the debate ended, 90 minutes later, they were jubilant, sensing their man had scored a solid victory over President Barack Obama.

“Romney was the pole, and Obama was the stringy stuff at the end of it. Romney mopped the floor with Obama,” said GOP Ward Leader Andrew Gentsch.

The first presidential debate may have been seen by over a third of this city’s population. In that group, the Philadelphia Public Record staff searched out those who would be the most fervent fans on either side.

Republicans crowed as several of Romney’s much-anticipated “zingers” hit home. His reference to federal economic programs as “trickle-down government”, echoing liberal critiques of conservative faith in “trickle-down” policies that favor the rich, drew cheers from the audience.

“I liked it when Romney told the President, ‘I’ve been in business for 25 years and you don’t know what you’re talking about’,” rebutting Obama’s claim businesses had been getting tax credits for shipping jobs overseas to China.

ROOTING for President Obama were, from left, Councilman Bob Henon, Ward Leader John Dougherty and State Rep. Ed Neilson.

REPUBLICAN analyst Adam Lang, left, gathered with friend to watch debate. He called President Obama “unprepared and passive.”

“The President seemed unprepared and passive in his responses,” noted Republican commentator Adam Lang. Other Republicans remarked how the President looked glumly downward while Romney was speaking and often stammered when it was his own turn.

“Romney was not my first pick or my second one,” said Aldridk Gessa. “But he was an articulate, skillful debater. I liked his focus on states’ right.”

Romney did what he needed to do, said Ron McNeil. But he conceded Obama closed it well, he added.

Across the Schuylkill at the Edward O’Malley Club in Pennsport, a large Democrat assembly reacted with bitterness. Debate-watchers snarled Romney was a liar as he announced numerous policies that had not been heard before, and were light on details.

But the President’s performance did not inspire them, it was plain. By the time the debate was half over, tables were chatting amongst themselves about other gossip, ignoring the two TVs but lining up at the bar, or at the buffet table laden with tasty fare provided courtesy of 1st Ward Leader John Dougherty.

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