Romney, Obama clash on tax, economy in first debate
DENVER, Colorado – (VNS) Republican challenger Mitt Romney came out firing on Wednesday in his first presidential debate, attacking Barack Obama for economic policies he said had "crushed" the American middle class.
"I'm concerned that the path we're on has just been unsuccessful," said Romney, fighting for his political life as he seeks to turn around a flagging campaign that has him trailing in key states just weeks before election day.
"The president has a view very similar to the view he had when he ran four years ago, that a bigger government, spending more, taxing more, regulating more – if you will trickle-down government – would work," Romney said.
"That's not the right answer for America. I'll restore the vitality that gets America working again," he vowed. "Middle-income families are being crushed, and the question is, how to get them going again."
Obama hit back by suggesting that Romney will bring in US$5.4 trillion in tax cuts, particularly geared towards the wealthy, and said Romney hadn't been clear about what loopholes in the tax system he would close.
"Governor Romney has a perspective that says if we cut taxes skewed toward the wealthy and cut back regulations, we'll be better off. I have a different view," Obama said, calling for "economic patriotism."
Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, fought back hard against Obama's claims as the debate saw its first real clash of the night.
"Virtually everything he said about my tax plan is inaccurate. If the tax plan he described were a tax plan I was asked to support, I would say absolutely not," he said, adding: "I'm not looking for a $5 trillion tax cut."
This led the Democratic incumbent to accuse his Republican challenger of backing away from his campaign pledges, as what started as a cordial series of exchanges descended into a fierce political exchange.
The president, who appeared the more nervous of the two in the opening exchanges, also sought to remind Americans that he inherited a terrible situation from former Republican president George W Bush.
"When I walked into the Oval Office, I had more than a trillion dollar deficit greeting me. And we know where it came from," Obama said.
"Two wars that were paid for on a credit card. Two tax cuts that were not paid for. And a whole bunch of programmes not paid for and then a massive economic crisis."
After hundreds of campaign stops, $500 million in mostly negative ads and countless tit-for-tat attacks, Obama and Romney were going head to head in their debut debate.
Minutes before Jim Lehrer of PBS NewsHour asked the first question, First Lady Michelle Obama, in a blue-violet jacket, and would-be first lady Ann Romney exchanged a polite kiss in the packed University of Denver auditorium. Both candidates had completed walkthroughs of the venue hours before the first of three televised showdowns just 33 days before American voters decide their fates.
Obama clings to a narrow lead in his bid to defy the omens sown by a stubbornly sluggish economic recovery and to become only the second Democrat since World War II to win a second term.
Romney, down in almost all the key battleground states that will decide who wins the 270 electoral votes needed to win on November 6, seeks a sharp change of momentum in a race that seems to be slipping away from him. - AFP