New polls show Republican challenger Mitt Romney gaining ground on President Barack Obama. Rep. Bill Pascrell told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that the first presidential debate “had a horrific fallout” for Obama. He also discussed his own bid for election in the newly redrawn ninth district against Republican Rabbi Shmuley Boteach.
Pascrell said Obama was leading Romney before the debate, but didn’t have a considerable lead. He said Obama was ahead by two points to as high as five in the national polls he saw. He agreed that Obama has lost some of his lead after the first debate in the states that analysts say are likely to decide the election.
According to Pascrell, Obama was not aggressive in the first debate with Romney. “These are two different visions of America. Here’s the problem. The political side is that unless we come together on the big issues and reconcile some differences we’re going to have major problems in the next two years, three years, 10 years,” he said. “So there’s gotta be some force to bring us together.”
Republicans have blocked actions from the president on minor issues, according to Pascrell. “This is the first time we’ve had a problem passing a transportation budget. God knows we need investments in transportation. Our bridges are falling down. And education,” he said. “We usually agree on those things. There’s no agreeing now.”
Pascrell fought a hard primary battle against fellow Democrat Steve Rothman for the chance to represent the newly redrawn ninth congressional district. Since his victory, Pascrell said he has gotten a good reception in Bergen County with several endorsements, including Rothman.
When asked if he believes Boteach is a credible threat, Pascrell said, “Anybody who’s on the ballot is a credible threat as far as I’m concerned.”
Pascrell hopes Boteach continues to wage a negative campaign against him. He fought against the negative campaigning of Rothman and he also defended his record on Israel. “I’m a strong supporter of Israel, I’m a strong supporter of a two-state solution with my Israeli friends and my Muslim friends. That’s who I am,” Pascrell said. “You try to make something else pluck something out of the air, pluck another thing out of the air, let him continue to do it. I’m not going to be negative.”
Pascrell said he believes he’s a better politician after facing off against Rothman in the primary. “I could’ve been dragged into a very negative campaign and I chose not to,” he said. “This was not the time to do it. It would’ve gained me nothing. I didn’t have to do that and so I didn’t.”
A Paterson native, Pascrell said he is working for the everyday residents. “I’m just fighting for the middle class. That’s what it’s all about since 1996 and I’m going to continue down that path,” he said. “Who’s speaking for the guy and the gals, the consumers out there? Who’s leading the fight to do it? That’s why I was sent.”