For­mer Montco Dem chair­man sees de­bate first­hand

Mar­cel Groen, now state chair­man, says at­mos­phere was ‘very re­spect­ful’

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - By Evan Brandt ebrandt@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @PottstownNews on Twit­ter

HEMP­STEAD, N.Y. >> Watch­ing Mon­day night’s first pres­i­den­tial de­bate from the com­fort of your liv­ing room is a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence than watch­ing it from the 10th row of the au­di­to­rium.

Af­ter more than 20 years in Mont­gomery County pol­i­tics, Penn­syl­va­nia State Demo­cratic Chair­man Mar­cel Groen was among those in the au­di­ence at Hof­s­tra Uni­ver­sity Mon­day night, the first time he has ever seen a pres­i­den­tial de­bate in per­son.

“You know, you can watch an Ea­gles game on TV, and you’re com­fort­able, get a snack, you can watch the re-plays. In some ways, you’re closer to the field,” said Groen. “But you don’t get the at­mos­phere.”

De­spite the hoopla in the na­tional me­dia, the at­mos­phere at the much-an­tic­i­pated de­bate was “very re­spect­ful. Peo­ple lis­tened,” said Groen, who was one of seven Penn­syl­va­ni­ans in­vited to the de­bate by the Clin­ton cam­paign.

It won’t sur­prise most read­ers to learn that what Groen heard, con­vinced him that Demo­cratic can­di­date Hil­lary Clin­ton’s per­for­mance far sur­passed that of her op­po­nent, Repub­li­can Don­ald Trump.

Echo­ing the nar­ra­tive which has been adopted by the na­tional press, Groen char­ac­ter­ized Trump as “un­pre­pared” for the de­bate.

“As Bush’s for­mer pub­lic re­la­tions per­son put it, the bar was set pretty low for Trump and he didn’t clear it; and the bar was set pretty high for Clin­ton, and she ex­ceeded it,” Groen said in an in­ter­view with Dig­i­tal First Me­dia Tues­day af­ter­noon.

He spoke highly of the per­for­mance and sub­stance demon­strated by Clin­ton, a for­mer first lady, U.S. sen­a­tor from New York and sec­re­tary of state.

“She was re­ally well pre­pared. She kept her cool, didn’t in­ter­rupt peo­ple and stayed above the fray,” Groen said. “She had ac­tual answers to the ques­tions.”

By con­trast, Groen had lit­tle pos­i­tive to say about Trump, a New York City real es­tate mag­nate, ei­ther in terms of his de­bate per­for­mance or his can­di­dacy.

“Trump had a cou­ple of things he wanted to say, and then he was done,” said Groen.

“He wants to cut cor­po­rate taxes from 35 to 15 per­cent, which ev­ery­one knows would be an eco­nomic dis­as­ter, and that was about the only thing of sub­stance he had to say. He in­ter­rupted peo­ple, was rude and dis­re­spect­ful and some of the things he said were al­most ab­surd,” he said.

“This de­bate needed to be about elect­ing a pres­i­dent who we know can walk into the job and make us feel com­fort­able,” Groen said.

“With the last few peo­ple who lost — Rom­ney, McCain, Kerry, Gore, Bob Dole — on elec­tion night, I went to bed feel­ing that who­ever won, I might disagree with them on pol­icy, but I would still feel they were com­pe­tent, de­cent peo­ple who could do the job,” Groen ob­served. “This elec­tion night, I will not sleep eas­ily.”

As it hap­pens, as state party chair­man, he is in a po­si­tion to make a dif­fer­ence in the de­ci­sion vot­ers have on Nov. 8.

Penn­syl­va­nia is one of sev­eral bat­tle­ground states that each can­di­date must win to be elected.

And, as chair­man of the Demo­cratic Party in Mont­gomery County for 21 years, Groen says he knows how es­sen­tial south­east­ern Penn­syl­va­nia is to win­ning the state.

“We’ve got to put up big num­bers in the five coun­ties in the South­east, and in Al­legheny County and most of the cities,” said Groen.

And not­ing that he has never seen a sharply di­vided elec­torate, Groen said Democrats need to reach out to those Repub­li­cans who are “un­easy with Trump.”

“If you’re talk­ing to some­one who is com­mit­ted to Trump, you’re wast­ing your time,” he said. “But there are plenty of Repub­li­cans who don’t want to vote for Trump, but have never voted for a Demo­crat be­fore.”

Democrats across the state “need to be talk­ing to those peo­ple on a one-onone ba­sis and our job is to make them feel com­fort­able work­ing with us and we need lo­cal peo­ple do that,” he said.

One of those peo­ple is un­likely to be Repub­li­can Party of Penn­syl­va­nia Chair­man Rob Glea­son, who re­leased the fol­low­ing state­ment Mon­day night re­gard­ing the first pres­i­den­tial de­bate:

“Don­ald Trump scored a de­ci­sive victory over Hil­lary Clin­ton in this first pres­i­den­tial de­bate,” Glea­son said. “Vot­ers had a ter­rific op­por­tu­nity to com­pare Hil­lary Clin­ton’s big govern­ment, spe­cial in­ter­est agenda with Don­ald Trump’s vi­sion to cre­ate jobs and grow our econ­omy. While Hil­lary Clin­ton is run­ning a cam­paign to main­tain the sta­tus quo in Wash­ing­ton, Don­ald Trump is ready to bring much-needed change to the White House.

“This de­bate will only add to Don­ald Trump’s growing mo­men­tum in Penn­syl­va­nia. The Repub­li­can Party of Penn­syl­va­nia is ex­cited to work harder than ever to elect Don­ald Trump this Novem­ber,” Glea­son said.

DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA FILE PHOTO

Mar­cel Groen, chair­man of the Penn­syl­va­nia Demo­cratic Party, at the Le­banon County Democrats an­nual Jef­fer­son and Jackson din­ner last year.

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