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Last night at the National Constitution Center, former Governors Ed Rendell and Christine Todd Whitman offered contrasting perspectives and firsthand knowledge of Election 2012′s key players and issues. David Eisner, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center, moderated.

Here are some excerpts from the program. Click the play button to hear each quote in its entirety.

GOP’s mistakes

Rendell and Whitman expressed disappointment in the recent performance of GOP lawmakers.

Rendell: “The Republicans have done everything they could to screw this up for themselves. It’s been a clown show.”

Whitman agreed that the Republican leaders’ performance has been “shameful.”

Christine Todd Whitman

Christine Todd Whitman

Obama’s, Romney’s leadership

The two governors shared some thoughts on how the leadership styles–and shortcomings–of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney could affect the campaign.

Whitman, on President Obama: “Well, he can’t run on hope and change.”

Rendell, on Romney: He should have showed leadership–and could have gained the respect of voters–by standing up when the crowd booed a gay soldier.

Whitman: War on Women

Whitman said that as a Republican woman, she is “embarrassed” about GOP leaders’ statements and actions pertaining to women’s issues, which Democrats and others have labeled a “War on Women.”

Whitman said, “There are a whole lot of Republicans I would take out in a nanosecond because of the way they’ve talked about women.”

The focus on the GOP’s efforts may be harming Romney’s chances at the polls; for example, a recent poll showed that the number of white female voters who favored Obama over Romney jumped by 8 percent in the past month alone.

Santorum in PA

Rendell offered Rick Santorum some simple advice for the Pennsylvania primary: “Get out.”

Edward Rendell

Edward Rendell

He admitted it’s tempting to try to stay the course: “When you’re there, the limelight is intoxicating. It’s like heroin.”

Voter turnout

Both Whitman and Rendell agreed a key to addressing the partisan gridlock in Washington is for citizens to get out and vote.

Whitman said, “A 10 percent voter turnout in a primary is just wrong, and it keeps us in this cycle of extremes. If you want to know what the problem is, look in the mirror.”

Rendell agreed: “There’s only one remedy for Citizens United, and that’s a 70 to 80 percent turnout. That blows away Citizens United, that blows away lobbyists, that blows away the negative campaign ads.”