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Obama, Romney clash on economy in first debate

Moderator Jim Lehrer, left, Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, center, and President Obama take the stage during the first 2012 presidential debate at the University of Denver Wednesday in Colorado.

Moderator Jim Lehrer, left, Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, center, and President Obama take the stage during the first 2012 presidential debate at the University of Denver Wednesday in Colorado.

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 — and of evasiveness on details for Romney proposals on tax changes, health care, Wall Street regulation and more.

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.

With a prime-time television audience likely counted in the tens of millions, moderator Jim Lehrer was pressed at time to enforce time limits on the two rivals. The president occasionally shook his head as Romney talked over Lehrer.

And Romney virtually lectured Obama at one point after the president accused him of seeking to cut education funds. "Mr. President, you're entitled to your own airplane and your own house, but not your own facts."

Romney said he had plans to fix the economy, repeal Obama's health care plan, remake Medicare, pass a substitute for the legislation designed to prevent another financial crash and reduce deficits — but he provided no specifics despite Obama's prodding.

Said Obama: "At some point the American people have to ask themselves: Is the reason Governor Romney is keeping all these plans secret, is it because they're going to be too good? Because middle class families benefit too much? No."

At times the debate turned into rapid-fire charges and retorts that drew on dense facts and figures that were difficult to follow. The men argued over oil industry subsidies, federal spending as a percentage of the GDP, Medicare cuts, taxes and small businesses and the size of the federal deficit and how it grew.

Obama sometimes seemed somewhat professorial. Romney was more assertive and didn't hesitate to interrupt the president or the moderator.

Despite the wonky tone of the debate, Romney managed to make some points by personalizing his comments with recollections of people he said he had met on the campaign trail. In another folksy reference, Romney told Lehrer, a veteran of the Public Broadcasting Service, that he would stop the federal subsidy to PBS even though "I love Big Bird."

Generally 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.

Comments

Sister_Ruby 1 year, 10 months ago

Just watched the Romney v Obama Debate #1. The first Question I have is “How did we get such an idiot savant in the White House?” No wonder NOTHING has been accomplished for this Country in 4 years. The first Observation I have from the so-called debates is “Obama must have a hearing problem, since he did not answer one single question during the entire 90 minutes of talking.” and finally the first Conclusion I have is “Obama’s cajones must hurt really, really bad Thursday morning because Romney crushed them in the Velvet Vise of Truth during the so-called Debate.

Obama looked like a 6th grader who didn’t study for the test and thought he could BS his way to a passing grade. He did not succeed.

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 10 months ago

Paul Ryan will not just CRUSH Joe Biden's jewels......he will make a puree of them and make him eat that puree and like it come 11 October. Watch and learn from the Major Prophetess.

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 10 months ago

I regret the "puree" comment. I should have said "tapenade". If anyone was offended, I apologize.

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USTPC 1 year, 10 months ago

And in spite of that the "47%" will still vote for Obama.

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VSU 1 year, 10 months ago

You can't change one tracked minds.

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 10 months ago

Jim Lehrer reminded me of Jimmy Carter. He did not know if he was "walkin' or ridin'" during the entire evening.

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Somebody 1 year, 10 months ago

Seems like a couple of times Obama was stuttering trying to start his comments. I guess maybe his teleprompter was working properly, or he had blurred vision.

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waltspecht 1 year, 10 months ago

Did the Debate change anyone's mind as to how they will vote? I know it didn't change mine. Isn't that at least in part something that the Debate was meant to accomplish?

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bubbasmithredneck 1 year, 10 months ago

The President showed much more class than Mitt Romney and was not RUDE and obnoxious. He did a great job of maintaining himself and staying within the boundaries of class. Mitt Romney sounded like a nerdy brat who uses a complaining attitude as a campaign instead offering something better. He flip-flopped on his 5 trillion dollar tax cut he has talking about forever and now pretends he didn't say that at all. He is a true politician who "flops around" toward whatever sounds good. He would make a terrible leader because he cannot be trusted. The debate did not change my mind, as I will stand with the President.

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VietVet1 1 year, 10 months ago

See folks, this is what drugs do to ones thinking. BSRN too bad you didn't listen to the debate

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Shinedownfan 1 year, 10 months ago

As tywebb would say, don't feed the Troll!!!

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ObjectiveEyes 1 year, 10 months ago

Bubba: Like Romney said last night, "...you are not entitled to you own facts..." You either (1) didn't watch the same debate that I watched or (2) you are not nearly as biased as you claim...you merely come on here to stir the pot...you actually believe just the opposite of your mindless ramblings. Obama was disengaged and arrogant, both with Gov Romney and the moderator. 75% of the time, he wouldn't even look Romney in the eye. He kept his head bowed (a familiar position for him), jaw clenched, shaking his head (I think in disbelief that anyone had the audacity to challenge his failed policies). Who but a self-centered fool corrects the moderator by saying, "...I had 5 seconds when you interrupted me..." And then rambles on for another 30-40 seconds (past a 2 minute limit)? "RUDE and obnoxious" is obviously in the eye of the beholder. Even the majority of liberal pundits conceded a Romney victory. Obama was exposed for what he is. He is totally lost without the teleprompter and it showed last night.

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USTPC 1 year, 10 months ago

And yet I have already heard from liberal friends and it does not matter that Romney totally destroyed Obama...they are still voting for Obama.

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USTPC 1 year, 10 months ago

That is because you are part of the "47%". It does not matter how bad Obama has been or how bad he looks in the debates you will still vote for him.

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gotanyfacts 1 year, 10 months ago

Bubbasmith… must be trying to out-buffoon rureel. Misinformed (willing victim of the media?), illogical, obstinate in the face of the facts.

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VSU 1 year, 10 months ago

In your own prejudiced mind. We all know how you feel corch, so your opinion doesn't really matter.

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chinaberry25 1 year, 10 months ago

USTPC, I am part of the 47%. I draw Social Security and this includes them and most will not be voting for Obama. This is just a funky math figure and I really hope Obama is playing on that fact because he will be sorely surprised, just like Jimmy Carter and Reagan and we know how that fiasco turned out. Christians will speak at the polls and Obama will be history. I just hope that Mitt will have Obama's records unsealed and we see the real truth unfold.

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USTPC 1 year, 10 months ago

Chinaberry, I do not believe you are part of the 47% that Romney was referring to. I believe that he was referring to the 47% who no matter how bad the economy is, no matter how many times Obama shows his true colors, and no matter how many times he ignores the constitution they will vote for Obama. Social Security is not an entitlement it is a repayment of what you paid to the government out of your hard earned money so you would have something to live on in your later years.

I do hope you are right though and a portion of those 47% actually see how bad Obama really is and vote for Romney.

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Fletch 1 year, 10 months ago

.... What we saw last night only confirmed what we have all known, for some time, to be true ... And, that is Obama is NEVER the smartest guy in the room .... I mean, for God sakes, Romney was actually teaching this buffoon ... He hadn't a clue as to how business, and the economy, works ..... "What a moroon!" - Bugs Bunny Circa 1977. ......

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VSU 1 year, 10 months ago

This debate was basically a waste of time. The fact of the matter is the same people are going to vote for Obama regardless, as well as the same people will vote for Romney regardless. Obama could have been speaking in ebonics and threaten to blow up every major city in the country and people would still vote for him. The only thing that would keep them from voting for Obuma would be if he announced he was cutting out all the free money, cell phones and all the other free stuff.

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ObjectiveEyes 1 year, 10 months ago

But maybe, just maybe, the independents and undecided were paying attention? It sure seemed to make a difference with the Frank Lutz (sp?) focus group of undecideds.

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 10 months ago

I have asked everyone I have seen last night and this morning to grade the debaters. Romney gets between B+ and A while Obama gets between C and D-.

My own grading is A for Romney and D+ for Obama.

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ObjectiveEyes 1 year, 10 months ago

One of my favorite quotes from the post-debate commentary..."are butt-kickings covered by ObamaCare?" Instant classic!

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 10 months ago

Wish I'd thought of it! It will be very interesting to see how Obama morphs for the next debate. I recall how Al Gore morphed into several personnas (all annoying I might add) when he tried to debate George Bush 43.

Maybe an even bigger question for the next debate is "how will MEDIA change the format to provide some shelter for Obama". That might be the most significant change we will see.

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Fletch 1 year, 10 months ago

.... This only served to confirm what we have all known for some time ... and that is Obama will never be the smartest guy in the room. .... I mean, did you see ... Romney was actually teaching business principles to this guy ... How embarrassing for Obama! ... Your vote may not change due to this exchange but, one thing is for sure, you have been officially educated as to how empty "The Suit" really is ... Sad, just really sad, that this buffoon in the White House is so far over his head that it is damaging the country. ....**

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 10 months ago

Reports this morning indicate that interns at MSNBC were assigned the task of collecting and locking up any and all sharp objects (scissors, razor blades, sharpened pencils) so that the likes of Chris Matthews, Laurence O'Donnell and others will be unable to commit suicide upon arriving at work today. Also, windows above the 1st floor were welded shut.

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TRUTH101 1 year, 10 months ago

I dont think Romney was as impressive last night as much as it seemed Barack was irritated about something.

His irritation boiled up to the point where he seemingly attacked(Although followed by a grin) the moderator for interrupting him for 5 seconds or so.

It, however, was no knockout in the sense of the word. Romney and Obama are too close politically and ideology wise to ever be able to truly knock each other out in a debate of true significance.

I will say that surprisingly Mitt was able to dictate the flow and pattern of the debate, which seemed to catch everybody(Obama included) by surprise. I dont think either Obama, nor anyone in his staff, will be caught off-guard like that again.

Romney won, but it was no landslide.

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tywebb 1 year, 10 months ago

he was irritated that he couldn't use the teleprompter. Which means he had to think off the top of his head. To those of us watching.....he doesn't do that well, at all.....ummm....ummm....ummm....dddddd.....ummm....you see.....what had happened was.....etc.

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ObjectiveEyes 1 year, 10 months ago

But, given the current situation in the Middle East and our unsecured southern border, the next debate (Domestic and foreign policy) doesn't provide Obama with a respite from the beat-down that occurred last night. It MAY only get worse. And, if Ryan doesn't absolutely embarrass Biden next week, I'll be very surprised. The winds may be shifting...without a minute to spare.

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tywebb 1 year, 10 months ago

they may be shifting, but will the ones who matter in this election (the independent/undecided voters) feel that shift in time? I sure hope so. And let's see how many times obumma says that they have deported more illegals than anyone else. of course, when you deport 100 and 1000 come across, that's not too good

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VSU 1 year, 10 months ago

That's why the democrats are pushing for the early voting...to get those votes in before they change their minds. I am sure the 47% crowd has their mind made up, but hopefully the smart educated voters will wait it out to process it more in their minds as to who they want to vote for.

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waltspecht 1 year, 10 months ago

Let us get one thing straight about that 47% that don't pay taxes. Some are hardworking people that have retired. Their retirement is so moderate that they do not have to pay any taxes on it. Their 401K is modest and they basically pull to survive from it. That is a part of that 47%. There are also hard working folks that only make enough to get by. Some single parents that would rather work then become a part of the system. The misdirected wrath should be for those cheating the system, the underground economy, those that do live off they system. There are those that are extremely skillful at utilizing every tax break there is, more power to them, I wish I were that smart. So lets not lose sight that some of that 47% are good hardworking folks that just don't make the cut to pay taxes.

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TRUTH101 1 year, 10 months ago

Whats really sad is that some of the ones throwing the term around are in the 47%. Id be willing to bet that every person who has used the term, in a negative way, in this blog are in that 47%.......

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USTPC 1 year, 10 months ago

You would lose that bet Truth101 - I used it negatively and I am not part of the 47%. I am not blinded by Obama rhetoric nor by his empty promises nor by his free handouts. The 47% are the ones who no matter how bad the economy is or gets, no matter how many times Obama goes around Congress through executive privilege, no matter how many times he ignores the constitution, no matter how far he gets our country in debt will still vote for him. I on the other hand would not vote for him if he were running unapposed so I am not part of the 47%.

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TRUTH101 1 year, 10 months ago

Through the eyes of Romney Hood.....YOU ARE IN THE 47%........

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USTPC 1 year, 10 months ago

Again, because you do not seem to comprehend very well, I WILL NOT be voting for Obama which means I am not in the 47%.

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Outtahere 1 year, 10 months ago

I am part of that 47%, but it is because I am a working mother who had to start at the bottom to work my way up. I have a decent job, but I will have to work hard and stay committed to get ahead. I have a college degree but when the ecomoy tanked, you accepted employment even if you were underpaid. Something is better than nothing and I am too determined to live off the system!

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tywebb 1 year, 10 months ago

thank you! i'm proud of anyone willing to NOT live off the system. My mom used it when i was little for free lunches, but as soon as she didn't have to we got off of it.

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bubbasmithredneck 1 year, 10 months ago

Obama has class and refused to stoop to Romney's level....He will be fine in november and you and FOX NEWS will be crying again...I cant wait...

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waltspecht 1 year, 10 months ago

I, for the good of America, hope you are wrong. I rode an FBM Submarine for six plus years to keep the Communists at bay while Americans slept safe in their beds. My immediate relatives fought in Korea against the Communist / Socialist hoard. I got a scenic tour of South-east Asia in 68 and 69 dealing with the Communists.Now you seem to want me to accept this Socialistic agenda that this individual is pushing. Doesn't work that way,

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tywebb 1 year, 10 months ago

walt, unlike bsr, I appreciate your service, as well as, ALL who have served our great country. he is just a troll and just writes stuff trying to stir crap up. NONE, i repeat, NONE of his posts ever have anything logical to bring to the discussion. Maybe, if we all just ignore the TROLL, he will go away. one can hope

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bubbasmithredneck 1 year, 10 months ago

Being obnoxious and a rude smart-mouth does not make you a winner.....Obama will show you a winner in November!!!

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Jacob 1 year, 10 months ago

LOL. That is perfect irony, coming from you. That made my day. Thanks.

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tywebb 1 year, 10 months ago

i think you misspelled that word.....it's spelled WHINER, not winner you stupid troll

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B4it 1 year, 10 months ago

Romney did well in the first debate. However, he missed a great opportunity to zing Obama when BOH criticized Paul Ryan's budget proposal. Romney should have promptly told BOH that he should have no room to criticize since he and his admin have not provided any budgetary leadership and has not presented a budget in the past 3 years.

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RedEric 1 year, 10 months ago

The blame game in support of Obama did not surprise me, but the reasons for the poor performance did. Gore is an absolute idiot and to think we nearly had this disaster as president drives me to drink as does people who fly past you on a four lane street and then slam on the brakes to turn and poppy seeds on buns and other bad stuff. Liberals and their 'Its Not My Fault!' attitude.

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