0

Obama, Romney clash on economy in first debate

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama shake hands during the first presidential debate at the University of Denver, Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, in Denver. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama shake hands during the first presidential debate at the University of Denver, Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, in Denver. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

DENVER -- In a showdown at close quarters, President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney sparred aggressively in their first campaign debate Wednesday night over taxes, deficits and strong steps needed to create jobs in a sputtering national economy. "The status quo is not going to cut it," declared the challenger.

Obama in turn accused his rival of seeking to "double down" on economic policies that actually led to the devastating national downturn four years ago.

Both men made frequent references to the weak economy and high national unemployment, by far the dominant issue in the race for the White House. Public opinion polls show Obama with a slight advantage in key battleground states and nationally, and Romney was particularly aggressive, like a man looking to shake up the campaign with a little less than five weeks to run.

Polite but pointed, the two men agreed about little if anything.

Obama said his opponent's plan to reduce all tax rates by 20 percent would cost $5 trillion and benefit the wealthy at the expense of middle income taxpayers.

Shot back Romney: "Virtually everything he just said about my tax plan is inaccurate."

The former Massachusetts governor and businessman added that Obama's proposal to allow the expiration of tax cuts on upper-level income would mean tax increases on small businesses that create jobs by the hundreds of thousands.

The two campaign rivals clasped hands and smiled as they strode onto the debate stage at the University of Denver, then waved to the audience before taking their places behind identical lecterns.

There was a quick moment of laughter, when Obama referred to first lady Michelle Obama as "sweetie" and noted it was their 20th anniversary.

Romney added best wishes, and said to the first couple, "I'm sure this is the most romantic place you could imagine, here with me."

Both candidates' wives were in the audience.

The two men debated before a television audience likely to be counted in the tens of millions. They will meet twice more this month, and their running mates once, but in past election years, viewership has sometimes fallen off after the first encounter.

Without saying so, the two rivals quickly got to the crux of their race -- Romney's eagerness to turn the contest into a referendum on the past four years while the incumbent desires for voters to choose between his plan for the next four years and the one his rival backs.

Romney ticked off the dreary economic facts of life -- a sharp spike in food stamps, economic growth "lower this year than last" and "23 million people out of work or stropped looking for work."

But Obama criticized Romney's prescriptions and his refusal to raise taxes and said, "if you take such an unbalanced approach then that means you are going to be gutting our investment in schools and education ... health care for seniors in nursing homes (and) for kids with disabilities."

Not surprisingly, the two men disagreed over Medicare, a flash point since Romney placed Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan on his ticket.

The president repeatedly described Romney's plan as a "voucher program" that would raise out-of-pocket costs on seniors.

He continued, directly addressing the voters at home: "If you're 54 or 55 you might want to listen because this will affect you."

Romney said he doesn't support any changes for current retirees or those close to retirement.

"If you're 60 or 60 and older you don't need to listen further," he said, but he contended that fundamental changes are needed to prevent the system from becoming insolvent as millions of baby boom generation Americans become eligible.

Romney also made a detailed case for repealing Obamacare, the name attached to the health care plan that Obama pushed through Congress in 2010. "It has killed jobs," he said, and argued that the best approach is to "do what we did in my state."

Though he didn't say so, when he was governor Massachusetts passed legislation that required residents to purchase coverage -- the so-called individual mandate that conservatives and he oppose on a national level.

Romney also said that Obamacare would cut $716 billion from Medicare over the next decade.

The president said the changes were part of a plan to lengthen the program's life, and he added that AARP, the seniors lobby, supports it.

Jim Lehrer of PBS drew moderator's duties, with Obama getting the first question and Romney the last word.

Five weeks before Election Day, early voting is under way in scattered states and beginning in more every day. Opinion polls show Obama with an advantage nationally and in most if not all of the battleground states where the race is most likely to be decided.

That put particular pressure on Romney to come up with a showing strong enough to alter the course of the campaign.

The sputtering economy served as the debate backdrop, as it has for virtually everything else in the 2012 campaign for the White House. Obama took office in the shadow of an economic crisis but promised a turnaround that hasn't materialized. Economic growth has been sluggish throughout his term, with unemployment above 8 percent since before he took office.

The customary security blended with a festival-like atmosphere in the surrounding area on a warm and sunny day. The Lumineers performed for free, and Black Eyed Peas frontman will.i.am delivered a pep talk of sorts to Obama's supporters. School officials arranged to show the debate on monitors outside the hall for those without tickets.

There was local political theater, too, including female Romney supporters wearing short shorts and holding signs that said, "What War On Women?" -- a rebuttal to claims by Obama and the Democrats.Both campaigns engaged in a vigorous pre-debate competition to set expectations, each side suggesting the other had built-in advantages.

Romney took part in 19 debates during the campaign for the Republican primary early in the year. The president has not been onstage with a political opponent since his last face-to-face encounter with Arizona Sen. John McCain, his Republican rival in 2008.

Obama and Romney prepared for the evening with lengthy practice sessions. Romney selected Ohio Sen. Rob Portman as a stand-in for the president; Obama turned to Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry to play the Republican role.

The two presidential rivals also are scheduled to debate on Oct. 16 in Hempstead, N.Y., and Oct. 22 in Boca Raton, Fla.

Vice President Joe Biden and Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin have one debate, Oct. 11 in Danville, Ky. Both men have already begun holding practice sessions.


Associated Press writer Kristen Wyatt contributed to this story. David Espo reported from Washington.

Comments

will 1 year, 6 months ago

Did Gov. Romney make hussein obama look like a babbling idiot or what? Romney exposed hussein obama for what he is, that is an incompetent leader. People do not vote by color it will not help you in the long run. We need jobs and good leadership, has hussein obama improved the job market or the economy-NO. Open your eyes people Romney is the better choice by far. ITS TIME TO TURN THIS COUNTRY AROUND.

3

Bemused 1 year, 6 months ago

Actually, Romney showed himself to be just what he is - a rude, arrogant, pompous behind that believes the rules of anything apply to him. I particularly enjoyed the moment when Romney whined like a petulant child just so he could get the last word in. Really? You know what's really good at teaching children manners? Sesame Street...oh yeah...that's a goner now.

1

CadyJackson 1 year, 6 months ago

Actually, if you WATCHED the debate, you would know that a coin was tossed, and Obama got to go first, and Romney got to go last. Wow the koolaid is strong with you.

1

Billy 1 year, 6 months ago

You can't reason with indoctrinated ultraleftists like the above. Best to save your breath for reasonable people. Who can look at the last four years and say that PBO has done a good job? Someone who is indoctrinated. The last four years have been a complete and utter failure, so obvious, it's beyond any legitimate arguments. I'm a 50 year old political science grad; bemused can't say anything that would impress me. I've been in politics since Jimmy lost to Ron. Good luck, elsewhere, Chuck; we're too smart for you...

0

Frustrated 1 year, 6 months ago

I never wathced Sesame St growing up an dhave very good manners thank you. Manners are or should be taught by parents.

0

John 1 year, 6 months ago

Maybe you should have watched Sesame St. The did help young people to learn how to spell. What is the meaning of watched & dhave?

0

Frustrated 1 year, 6 months ago

Excuse me for not typing perfectly like you..I am a product of public schools. (I do hope you detect the note of sarcasm in that statement)

0

John 1 year, 6 months ago

I went to public schools as well and along the way learned what that squiggly little red line under a word meant. Each time one appears, I simply take the initiative to correct the typo, as they are a reflection (+ or -) on the writer.

0

will 1 year, 6 months ago

John take the initiative to correct poor grammar-The did help young people to learn how to spell. Is that a log in your eye. We all make typos and we all get corrected by the grammar police.

0

will 1 year, 6 months ago

John what is the meaning of -The did help young people to learn how to spell. Maybe you need a grammar class. I love it when people mess up and the person commenting on the error screws up themselves. Did you hear Hussein obama pronounce corpmen and aircrafts, the idiot cannot use the english language correctly.

0

will 1 year, 6 months ago

Actually Gov. Romney let America see just how tough he is when it come to listening to a trash talking failure. He made Hussein obama look like a babbling fool and when you listen to Hussein obamas supporters you can tell the real productive people in this country support him too. I gonna git my obama money an mi obama fone-obama obama obama, he gonna take care of me- obama obama obama. I just threw up. VOTE WITH YOUR MIND NOT YOUR EYES.

0

Clem 1 year, 6 months ago

Seame St. does not have to be a goner, if the people who want to keep it want to pay for it they can. Makes no sense to make the people who don't use it pay for it. I know the government does it all the time, but still makes no sense.

0

henrystamm 1 year, 6 months ago

What are you? One of those idiots sounding off idiocies. How much did the corrupt dems pay you?

0

Bemused 1 year, 6 months ago

Obama made no heinous gaffes.

Romney had two goals: 1) Show himself able to discuss policy. 2) Provoke Obama to lose his cool.

Romney only hit 50% of his goal, and only superficially, because to keep up, Mitt Romney had to lie.

There will be no embarrassing Obama sound bite on the news for the next week. Romney will get a bounce, but the fact checkers will eat away at any gains he makes till they're all gone...

This was not a game changer. Not even close.

0

will 1 year, 6 months ago

Bemused, obama is a heinous gaffe and his followers are for the most part non-productive people who think they are entitled something. Look at how his change has worked for the people. Does FOODSTAMP president mean anything to you.

1

Frustrated 1 year, 6 months ago

Wasnt it Obama that kept rambling on and on trying to take up as much time as he could and not make any point to what he was saying? At least Romney didnt keep repeating the same thing over and over. Obama has only one thing he is trying to win votes with and Romney shot that down last night. Maybe Obama needs a remedial math class.

0

John 1 year, 6 months ago

Sounds to me like there are some sore losers on the left side. 62% of the viewers believe that Romney won the debate - ain't bad for a rookie presidential debater. When it comes to not telling the truth here is a good of example. It was stated more than once last night that there were 5 million new jobs created in the last almost 4 years. This is a gross number. When one subtracts the number of jobs lost you get a net gain during this same period of 125K (simple + & - math that is used every to balance a checkbook - heck a Harvard grad aught to be able to handle that). And that does equal not much of a bang for the stimulus bucks spent.

1

Bemused 1 year, 6 months ago

Provide your sources for your numbers, then I'll gladly shoot them down for you. No sore losing, since the president didn't lose.

0

John 1 year, 6 months ago

I'll provide half of the sources for 1/2 of the information you need to solve your concerns. Statement made last night and for many moths prior to yesterday (this number hasn't changes for several months you know) "We have created 5 million new jobs" Sources President Barack Obama, V-P Joe Biden, Press Secretary Jay Carney, Nancy & Harry. Now start shooting & start finding sources for the other half (it is there if you want to find it). I guess if 62% of the viewers polled said Romney won the debate - one can simply and very reliably deduce the other guy did not win since only two people were debating. This also strongly implies the other guy lost but maybe not in the eyes of the other 38% (which includes those that have no opinion or unable to decide & you).

1

Billy 1 year, 6 months ago

Why waste time with this guy? He's like PBO; arrogant and impervious to facts and reason. Let him be; he's harmless, has zero charm...

0

will 1 year, 6 months ago

Open you eyes and ears Bemused Hussein got his butt kicked and Gov. Romney let America see what a failure Hussein obama has been. Now go get your obama money and your obama phone.

1

Billy 1 year, 6 months ago

You can't reason with an indoctrinated person. Just let him post things that no one else reads. All the free speech in the world, yet to no effect. Romney wins on Nov 6th--that's all that matters...

0

Sign in to comment