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Election

October 4, 2012

Obama, Romney clash on economy in first debate

DENVER — In a showdown at close quarters, President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney sparred aggressively in their first campaign debate last night over taxes, deficits and strong steps needed to create jobs in a sputtering national economy. “The status quo is not going to cut it,” declared the challenger.

Obama in turn accused his rival of seeking to “double down” on economic policies that actually led to the devastating national downturn four years ago — and of evasiveness on details for Romney proposals on tax changes, health care, Wall Street regulation and more.

Both men made frequent references to the weak economy and high national unemployment, by far the dominant issue in the race for the White House. Public opinion polls show Obama with a slight advantage in key battleground states and nationally, and Romney was particularly aggressive, like a man looking to shake up the campaign with a little less than five weeks to run.

With a prime-time television audience likely counted in the tens of millions, moderator Jim Lehrer was pressed at times to enforce time limits on the two rivals. The president occasionally shook his head as Romney talked over Lehrer.

And Romney virtually lectured Obama at one point after the president accused him of seeking to cut education funds. “Mr. President, you’re entitled to your own airplane and your own house, but not your own facts.”

Romney said he had plans to fix the economy, repeal Obama’s health care plan, remake Medicare, pass a substitute for the legislation designed to prevent another financial crash and reduce deficits — but he provided no specifics despite Obama’s prodding.

Said Obama: “At some point the American people have to ask themselves: Is the reason Governor Romney is keeping all these plans secret, is it because they’re going to be too good? Because middle class families benefit too much? No.”

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