challenger Mitt Romney put up a tough fight against President Barack Obama as the two sparred over jobs, taxes and healthcare in
the first presidential debate.
US presidential debates are a time-honoured tradition, with the
first nationally-televised presidential debate being held in 1960.
Taking the offensive right from the word go in the 90-minute
encounter, Wednesday night in Denver, Colorado, Romney made good
use of a gaffe by Vice President Joe Biden to suggest that the
middle class had been "buried" under Obama's economic policies.
"I just don't know how the president could have come into office,
facing 23 million people out of work, rising unemployment, an
economic crisis at the kitchen table, and spend his energy and
passion for two years fighting for Obamacare instead of fighting
for jobs for the American people," he said.
Obama, on the other hand, sounded somewhat professorial to begin
with as he was forced to defend his record of four years in office
while he charged his opponent with vowing to undo a host of his
reforms without specifying what he would do instead.
"At some point, the American people have to ask themselves if the
reason that Governor Romney is keeping all these plans secret is
because they're too good," he said.
It was only half-way through the 90-minute encounter that Obama,
celebrating his 20th wedding anniversary, realised what he was up
against and came into his own to brand the Romney tax plan to
reduce deficit by eliminating deductions while lowering taxes as a
$5 trillion cut.
"I think math, common sense and our history shows us that's not a
recipe for job growth," Obama said, echoing a line from former
president Bill Clinton at last month's Democratic convention
saying the math doesn't add up without increasing tax revenue.
Romney disagreed with Obama's characterisation of his tax plan,
saying it won't add to the deficit, and criticised Obama's call
for allowing tax rates on income over $250,000 for families and
$200,000 for individuals to return to the higher rates of the
Depicting Obama's vision as one of big government, Romney insisted
that while regulation was necessary to keep the economy
functioning, the Dodd-Frank Act passed in response to the
financial crisis of 2008 was in some cases excessive.
He also repeated criticism of Obama's signature Affordable Care
Act, dubbed Obamacare by opponents that passed with no Republican
support amounted to an unnecessary and unwanted government
takeover of health care.
"The right answer is not to have the federal government take over
health care," Romney said.
As they moved on to the topic of the role of the government, Obama
stressed the federal government has a role to play in opening up
opportunity and create ladders of opportunity.
"There is also something we do better together," said Obama.
Romney said the role of the government is to protect the
principals of the Constitution and the Declaration of
Independence, but not to substitute for people's initiatives,
decrying what he called a "trickle down government".
Voters seemed to agree with the critics in giving Romney the upper
hand in the debate with a CNN snap poll of debate watchers saying
67 percent believed Romney was the winner, and 25 percent believed
Obama was the winner.
The other presidential debates will occur Oct 16 in New York and
Oct 22 in Florida. Vice President Joe Biden and House member Paul
Ryan, Romney's running mate, will debate on Oct 11 in Kentucky.
While the first nationally-televised presidential debate was not
held until 1960, several other debates are considered predecessors
to the presidential debates, including the debates between Abraham
Lincoln and Stephen Douglas in the middle of 19th century.
The first nationally-televised general election presidential
debate was held on Sep 26, 1960, between John F. Kennedy and
It wasn't until 1976 that presidential debates became a formality
of the presidential election.
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)