Maui Republicans said they viewed Mitt Romney's performance in Wednesday night's presidential debate against President Barack Obama as commanding, animated and aggressive.
Maui Democrats, meanwhile, saw Obama as thoughtful, caring and sincere.
"Romney did a better job of articulating his ideas, while Obama was more subdued, looked down and mostly looked at (Jim) Lehrer, the moderator," Cindy Sue Clark, Maui County Republican Party chairwoman, said in an email after the debate.
"I think that Obama lacked passion," added Madge Schaefer, GOP party member and community activist on Maui. "I thought that Mitt Romney was animated and aggressive, and wasn't going to be pushed around."
While national political analysts and media concluded that Obama flopped in his first presidential debate of the year, local Democrats were supportive of the Hawaii-born president.
"I felt that the greatest contest was in presentation of character," said former Maui County Democratic Party Chairman Jonathan Starr. "I felt that Gov. Romney was very pushy and rude, that he was not interested in playing by the rules. . . . I felt the president was polite and sincere and came across as a sincere problem solver."
Lance Holter, also a past chairman of the Maui Democratic Party, added: "Both sides had good arguments, but I think it came across that President Obama cares more about the middle class."
The debate questions covered a range of topics focused on the economy, job creation, tax cuts, health care and the role of the federal government.
Schaefer said she was shocked at Obama's remark that the Social Security program is "structurally sound."
"I was astounded, absolutely astounded, with Obama's statement that Social Security has a sound structure," she said. "I think that was the biggest shocker. . . . The choices ahead are not pretty. It is not sound, and it's not going to be there for future generations."
Schaefer said she appreciated hearing Romney talk about the need for bipartisan collaboration.
"One of the most important things to me was the fact that he spoke about a collaborative government and the need for collaboration, and his experience in Massachusetts as a Republican governor with a Democratic state House, where he learned to work collaboratively," she said. "Obama indicated he was willing to do that, but he didn't do that with Obamacare. The Republicans were completely shut out on that."
Starr said he was concerned to hear that Romney said he would repeal Wall Street reform because it was too excessive.
"That would lead us back to a situation that virtually bankrupted the country, which I feel Obama got us out of," he said.
Starr said he also was bothered by Romney's comments about wanting to turn the federal Medicare program into a so-called voucher program for senior citizens to purchase their own medical coverage in the private market.
"Romney admitting that he would turn Medicare into a voucher system. That was scary because I would be one of the people who would end up with a voucher instead of health care, even though I've been paying into it my whole life."
Clark had a different take on Romney's Medicare proposal.
"Romney's ideas put insurance companies at the mercy of the seniors, not the other way around where seniors are at the mercy of the government like Obamacare will do," she said in an email. "Also, 20 million people will lose their insurance due to Obamacare, and Obama will be cutting $716 billion out of Medicare. He wants to lower payments to providers, which means doctors will be taking less Medicare patients."
Holter disputed the $716 billion being labeled a cut by Romney, who said he would instead put that money back into the Medicare program.
"The $716 billion in cuts kept coming up. That's just a redistribution of federal funding. It's not cuts," he said. "Romney was real slim on the details. He never substantiated how he'd fund Medicare without affecting the middle class."
* Nanea Kalani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.