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Obama, Romney Spar In U.S. Presidential Debate

Obama, Romney Address Economy In First Debate
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U.S. President Barack Obama and his Republican Party challenger in the upcoming presidential election, Mitt Romney, have squared off in the first presidential debate in the city of Denver, Colorado.

The 90-minute debate focused on domestic issues, including the economy, job growth, and the government deficit.

Obama said he had a different vision than his challenger Romney.

"And so the question here tonight is not where we've been, but where we're going. Governor Romney has a perspective that says if we cut taxes, skewed toward the wealthy, and roll back regulations, that we'll be better off. I've got a different view," the U.S. leader said.

Obama outlined his recipe for turning around the U.S. economy.

"I think we've got to invest in education and training," Obama explained. "I think it's important for us to develop new sources of energy here in America; that we change our tax code to make sure that we're helping small businesses and companies that are investing here in the United States; that we take some of the money we're saving as we wind down two wars to rebuild America."

Romney said the policies of President Obama were "not the right answer for America."

"The president has a view very similar to the one he had when he ran for office four years ago, that a bigger government, spending more, taxing more, regulating more, if you will, trickle-down government would work," Romney said.

Furthermore, Romney denied he planned to cut taxes for the wealthy, as charged by Obama.

"And the answer is yes, we can help, but it's going to take a different path, not the one we've been on, not the one the president describes as top-down, cut taxes for the rich. That's not what I'm going to do," Romney added.

Romney accused Obama of racking up huge deficits, and labeled the federal deficit a "moral issue."

"I think it's frankly not moral for my generation to keep spending massively more than we take in, knowing those burdens are going to be passed on to the next generation, and they are going to be paying the interest and the principal all their lives, and the amount of debt we are adding at a trillion a year is simply not moral," Romney charged.

Obama said he faced a huge deficit coming into office, and that matters were made worse by the economic crisis. "When I walked into the Oval Office, I had more than a trillion-dollar deficit greeting me," he said.

"And we know where it came from: two wars that were paid for on a credit card, two tax cuts that were not paid for, and a whole bunch of programs that were not paid for and then a massive economic crisis," Obama added, "and despite that, what we've said is, 'Yes we had to take some initial emergency measures to make sure we don't slip into a great depression,' but what we've also said is, 'Let's make sure we're cutting those things that are not helping us grow.'"

U.S. President Barack Obama (right) and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney share a laugh at the end of the first presidential debate.
U.S. President Barack Obama (right) and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney share a laugh at the end of the first presidential debate.

Romney Scores Points

Speaking to RFE/RL, Charles Mahtesian, national politics editor for "Politico," a daily broadsheet in Washington, D.C., gave high marks to Romney.

“This was a critical moment for Mitt Romney and he really met the occasion. I think he came across as knowledgeable, he was substantive on some important issues, and he was also feisty in a way that he needed to be,” Mahtesian explained.

"I think if you had to boil it down, I think you'll find the consensus is that Mitt Romney won this debate, but both candidates managed to accomplish what they needed to do, in the sense that Mitt Romney had to win a debate," Mahtesian added.

"He had to show that he had a little more fire in the belly than he's shown so far. He had to show that he could be on the same stage and be presidential with Barack Obama, and I think he accomplished that. His party is going to be very happy with his performance."

Jill Lawrence, a veteran campaign reporter and managing editor of the politics and policy magazine "National Journal," agreed, saying the Republican hopeful "did himself a lot of good" in the debate.

"One thing people were looking for were specifics. I'm not sure we got too many of those," she told RFE/RL. "But he certainly gave the appearance of a person with a lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm -- [he] made the case against the Obama record."

A nationwide flash poll conducted by CNN after the 90-minute debate in Denver, Colorado said nearly three out of four adults thought Romney defeated the president.

A CBS News poll showed undecided voters proclaiming Romney the debate victor by a two-to-one margin. Earlier polls focusing on the general election have shown Romney trailing Obama a month before the vote.

An estimated 50 million Americans were expected to tune in to watch the debate on TV. It's the first of three presidential debates ahead of the November 6 election.

Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, has been damaged by hidden-camera videotape in which he said 47 percent of voters were dependent on government and unlikely to support him.

Analysts say weak economic growth and 8.1 percent unemployment has left Obama vulnerable in his effort to win a second four-year term.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and dpa
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