Obama, Romney Focus On Economy At First Debate
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UPDATED: 10/4/2012 6:00 a.m.
DENVER (CBS) — For the first time, President Barack Obama, and Republican challenger Mitt Romney faced off in a national debate Wednesday night in Colorado, and the economy took center stage.
During the six-part debate, every topic covered domestic issues that affect the average taxpayer, and most of them touched in some way on the nation’s economy.
But was there a winner? A CBS News poll among undecided voters found 46 percent believed Romney won, 22 percent favored Obama, while 32 percent said it was a tie.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts Reports
“Performance-based, there’s no question Mitt Romney comes out the victor,” said CBS 2 political analyst Stephen Caliendo. “He looked smooth, he looked rather presidential.”
CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports, from the start, it was clear Romney was the aggressor. He had to be, as he’s been trailing in national polls, as well as polls in key swing states.
Moderator Jim Lehrer tried to keep control when the candidates went over their allotted time, but more often than not, he failed and was shouted down, usually by Romney.
Discussing their tax plans, Romney told Obama “you raised taxes, and you killed jobs. That’s why the National Federation of Independent Businesses said your plan will kill 700,000 jobs. I don’t want to kill jobs.”
But Obama said, “The approach that Governor Romney is talking about is the same sales pitch that was made in 2001 and 2003, and we ended up with the slowest job growth in 50 years. We ended up moving from surplus to deficits, and it all culminated in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.”
There were also lighter moments, as there are in most debates, which were usually unscripted and unexpected.
At one point, when Lehrer tried to cut off Obama’s remarks, the president said, “No, I think I had five seconds before you interrupted.”
At another point, Romney promised to cut federal funding to PBS, and apologized to PBS anchor Jim Lehrer, who was moderating the debate.
“I’m sorry, Jim, I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I’m going to stop other things, and I like PBS. I love Big Bird. I actually like you too,” Romney said.
When it was finally over, the two candidates smiled and shook hands, but it was clear that neither was afraid to take off the gloves. Though, when it was finally over and they left the stage – or the ring, so to speak – both were still standing.
Obama and Romney will meet two more times for debates before the election. Their strategies might undergo subtle changes, but the approaches will remain largely the same, with Romney taking a more passionate approach, and Obama trying to take a more presidential one.
CBS 2’s Mike Parker sat down with two longtime friends who watched the debate together, starting off divided in their support for the two candidates, but ending up on the same side of the debate.
Jeremy Fox and Kyle Ross have been friends for seven years, but they don’t agree on everything.
Fox, a small business owner, backs Republican Mitt Romney. Ross, who’s unemployed, came into the debate supporting President Barack Obama, but the debate changed his mind.
“Like I said, you listen to what they have to say, and, I don’t know,” he said. “He [President Obama] didn’t want to answer the question, he was dodging bullets if you will, and trying to say things maybe that necessarily aren’t what’s going on, or not. But that’s just my feeling on what I saw.”
Fox said he’s absolutely still behind Romney after watching the debate, and he thinks Romney might move some other people to his side, like he did with Ross.
“I think if people are really thinking about it, yes, because even what Obama was saying about … he’s done all these programs that are making more money, and stuff, but really he’s robbing Peter to pay Paul,” Fox said.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Terry Keshner Reports
Fox also said he thought Romney came off looking presidential, “in an old Southern hometown kind of way.”
Romney had hopes his debate performance would give him a bounce, and it did with at least one voter in the Chicago area.
He’ll get another chance at two more debates with Obama — one on Oct. 16 in New York, the other on Oct. 22 in Florida. The vice presidential candidates will have their lone debate on Oct. 11 in Kentucky.