|Romney, Obama clash on tax, economy|
04 October 2012
DENVER: Republican challenger Mitt Romney came out firing 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 $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 lead Obama 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.
After hundreds of campaign stops, $500 million in mostly negative ads and countless tit-for-tat attacks, Obama and Mitt 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 at the University of Denver, 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.
Republican 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.
The debate was set to focus on economic issues but veteran anchor Lehrer, who was steering the debate for tens of millions of viewers at home, had leeway to bring up other subjects.
That means Obama, 51, could face a grilling on his administration's shifting account of the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya on September 11.
Romney, a multi-millionaire former venture capitalist, could come under scrutiny over his complex offshore tax arrangements, which Democrats have highlighted to press the case that he is indifferent to middle-class struggles.
The 65-year-old badly needs to reset the election narrative, after a video emerged of him branding 47 percent of Americans as people who pay no taxes and see themselves as "victims" who depend on government handouts.
Obama and Romney, who have rarely met or spoken, have spent days in seclusion honing debate techniques, offensive parries and comebacks.
After visiting the venue, Obama and Romney returned to their respective hotels in Denver for last minute preparation. (AFP)
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