President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney went head-to-head in Denver for the first presidential debate on Wednesday night. The debate, moderated by PBS NewsHour Executive Editor Jim Lehrer, was a heated match-up in which the men exchanged jabs on the economy, regulatory policy, health care and the role of government.
Although only about half of the 90-minute debate was meant to focus on the economy, fiscal issues dominated every question, with the two men highlighting how their policies would help the United States pull itself out of the slow economic recovery.
Much of the first 20 minutes of the debate focused specifically on Romney's tax policy. The president repeatedly stated the former Massachusetts governor was in favor of cutting taxes on America's most wealthy, while Romney himelf characterized this as "inaccurate."
"For 18 months [Romney's] been running on this tax plan. And now, five weeks before the election, he's saying that his big, bold idea is, 'Never mind,'" Obama said.
"The fact is that if you are lowering the rates the way you described, Governor, then it is not possible to come up with enough deductions and loopholes that only affect high-income individuals to avoid either raising the deficit or burdening the middle class. It's - it's math. It's arithmetic," Obama added.
In response, Romney said: "You raise taxes and you kill jobs...I don't want to kill jobs in this environment."
Moving onto deficit reduction and regulatory policy, Romney criticized the president for bailing out "too-big-to-fail" banks and also said deficit reduction was "a moral issue."
"Regulation is essential. You can't make a free market work without regulation...At the same time, it can become excessive," Romney said, adding he would repeal and replace the Dodd-Frank Act.
On discussing health care, the president criticized Romney for passing a health care law similar to his own Affordable Care Act when he was governor of Massachusetts.
In response, Romney, without directly acknowledging this criticism, said the difference between his health care policy in Massachusetts and the president's federal policy is that the latter pushed his through with no Republican support.
In response, Obama said Romney's federal health care policy was not specific enough. "Is the reason Governor Romney keeping all these plans secret - is it because they're too good?" he quipped.
Moving onto the role of federal government in the lives of ordinary Americans, President Obama said he believed the top purpose of the government is to keep citizens safe.
Secondly, the president added he knows "the federal government has the capacity to...create ladders of opportunity."
Romney, on the other hand, highlighted the tenents enshrined in the constitutition, such as freedom of speech and religion and the pursuit of happiness.
"Republicans and Democrats both love America, but we need to have leadership in Washington that will actually bring people together and get the job done," Romney said.
"Four years ago, I said I'm not a perfect man and I wouldn't be a perfect president. And that's probably a promise that Governor Romney thinks I've kept," Obama said in his closing statement.
"But I also promised I'd fight every single day on behalf of the Amrican peopel, the middle class and all those struggling to get into the middle class. I've kept that promise and if you'll vote for me, then I promise I'll fight just as hard in the second term," Obama concluded.
"This is an important election and I'm concerned about America. I'm concerned about the direction America has been taking in the last four years," Romney began his closing statement.
"There really are two very different paths," Romney added, saying an Obama re-election woudl mean a middle class squeeze, high unemployment, a raise in health premiums and "dramatic cuts" in defense.
The debate calendar for October is crowded, as Vice President Joe Biden squares off with Congressman Paul Ryan on October 11 at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky.
Then Romney and Obama clash again on October 16 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY and on October 22 at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida.
by RTT Staff Writer
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