When Wendy Larson arrived to watch Wednesday night's presidential debate at Ann's Choice in Warminster, she had already decided on voting for incumbent President Barack Obama.
"I made up my mind after the conventions," said Larson. "When I saw the Republicans, I didn't think they represented me."
Ninety minutes later, Larson found herself back on the fence over how she will cast her ballot on Nov. 6.
"Romney acquitted himself well," she said. "He showed he has more experience in dealing with the country's problems."
Judging by the real time reactions posted by Patch users in Bucks and Montgomery counties during last night's liveblog of the debate, the general consensus is that Romney won the first of three scheduled debates between the candidates.
"Mitt won, hands down," commented user Joe Moon. "Obama was clearly out of his league. But that is the difference between a community organizer, and a real man from the real world."
The local and national trend is that Wednesday was Romney's night, which is undoubtedly good news for a campaign that struggled in September.
"I loved his aggressiveness, he stood up for himself, I was delighted with his performance tonight and it shows the public what kind of leader he can be," said Pat Poprik, chair of the Bucks County Republican Committee. “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.”
As of midnight, Patch readers clearly declared Republican candidate Mitt Romney as the winner in a post-debate poll, giving him 69 percent of the vote.
"It’s night and day and the reality is out here in the public," said Ray Babcock as he stood outside the Bucks County Republican Committee headquarters in Doylestown. "This President is leading us down the wrong path. I liked Romney’s statements on the economy, taxes, the whole bit. I think Romney really handled the debate well and he is coming from the heart, he’s passionate, and you can hear that he is American. I think Obama’s intentions are good, but he is off a little bit in his understanding."
President Obama was not without his own supporters, however.
“I have been pleased with the caliber of the debate," said Kevin Green, a volunteer at the Bucks County Democratic Field Office in Doylestown. "I think there are some good points being made by both sides and both sides are representing their views, but I think Obama’s message is coming across very clear. He supports a different vision in dealing with the economy and moving America forward."
The face-off was the first debate between the two candidates and took place at the University of Colorado. Moderated by PBS anchor Jim Lehrer, the topics focused on domestic policy issues, including jobs, the economy, entitlements and the overall function of government in American society.
"Mitt definitely won tonight," said Patch reader and frequent blogger Mike Shortall. "President looked tired and harried. Mitt spoke much better, and clearly laid out his framework for the country, especially economically. Much better performance than I expected."
Despite the 90 minutes of back and forth and clear philosophical distinctions, the major takeaway from the debate occurred early on during an exchange over federal spending. Romney stated that part of his plans include cutting Obamacare and funding for public broadcasting.
"I'm sorry, Jim, I'm going to stop the subsidy to PBS," Romney said to debate moderator Jim Lehrer. "I'm going to stop other things. I like PBS, I love Big Bird. Actually I like you, too. But I'm not going to -- I'm not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for [it]."
"Romney plans to fire Big Bird!!! WTF!! That's his plan????" commented Joann Cosgrove.
The other common takeaway from last night's debate is that Lehrer did not perform well as moderator. His efforts to cut the candidate's off because they ran over their allotted time or he wished to change subjects were repeatedy ignored.
"Lehrer clearly can not control the candidates," said user Scott Johnson.
Next on the schedule is the vice presidential debate on Oct. 11 at 9 p.m. between incumbent Joe Biden and Republican candidate Paul Ryan. They will meet at Centre College in Kentucky, with ABC's Martha Raddatz presiding.
Obama and Romney will meet again on Oct. 16 at 9 p.m. at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., for a town hall-style debate, with CNN's Candy Crowley as moderator, followed by the final debate on foreign policy on Oct. 22 at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., moderated by CBS' Bob Scheiffer.