Mitt Romney takes fight to Barack Obama in first debate

 

Denver

In a passionate performance in the first of the presidential debates last night, Governor Mitt Romney accused President Barack Obama of “crushing the middle class”, assailing him on his record and calling him out on everything from tax policy, healthcare reform or what he called his attachment to “trickle-down government”.

While Mr Romney maintained an aggressive and energetic stance throughout the 90-minute showdown at the University of Denver, Mr Obama remained cool and mostly grave in his demeanour to the point of professorial.  Viewers saw him frequently looking down at his shoes while his challenger kept his finger on the trigger firing fusillades on his record of the last four years.  “You raised taxes and you killed jobs,” Mr Romney declared.

The debate, the first time the two men have met on the same stage in an election hitherto largely fought through negative advertising and the confections that are the party conventions, vividly illustrated the ideological divide between them as they sparred on economic policy as well as on their differing visions of the role of government.

Perhaps aided by lowered expectations and by the fact that it is the incumbent who has the burden of a record to defend, Mr Romney seized the ball from the start.  “I'm concerned that we’re on the path that’s just been unsuccessful”, he said, adding: “The President has a view very similar to the one he had when he ran for office four years go, that spending more, taxing more, regulating more, if you will, trickle-down government would work. That's not the right answer for America.”

The night may now help the Romney camp change the dynamics of the race and get past the damage done by the famous tape showing him disparaging 47 per cent of Americans as “victims” dependent on handouts – a video which Mr Obama declined to raise once in the debate – and focus attention instead on Mr Obama’s record. “Going forward with the status quo is not going to cut it for the American people who are struggling today,” he said here on the stage.

“If this was boxing match, the referee would have called it and Mitt Romney would have been the clear winner,” Eric Ferhnstrom, a Romney advisor, suggested moments after the debate would up. “What the President gave us were empty platitudes.  He has given us no vision of where he wants to take the country.”

But aides to the President insisted he had been effective hammering Mr Romney on an economic plan they call unworkable. The President said repeatedly that his rival’s promise to cut taxes by 20 per cent across the board would create a $5 trillion shortfall in government revenue that would in the end force him to raise taxes on the middle class.  He also sought to tie him to the policies of George W. Bush, without mentioning him by name.  It was those policies of tax-cutting and deregulation that had brought the country to the financial brink four years ago, he said.

But Mr Romney indignantly denied many of the charges made against him. One of the sharpest moments came when Mr Obama said his opponent meant to make cuts in education. “You’re entitled to your own airplane and your own house, but not your own facts,” Mr Romney responded. “I’m not going to cut education funding.” 

He also refuted the $5 trillion figure and said he would not pass any tax policies that would add to the deficit.  “I don’t have a $5 trillion tax cut. I don’t have a tax cut of the scale that you’re talking about,” Romney said. “If the tax plan he just described were a tax plan I were asked to support, I’d say absolutely not.”

There are two more presidential debates to come and another, next week, between the vice-presidential candidates.  “This debate will test whether debates can change polls or election outcomes,” said Larry Sabato, director of political studies at the University of Virginia. “Doubtful but possible.” But at least one senior Obama aide seemed to concede last night that the upshot from the first might be a tightening of polls.

“We don’t care about the national polls,” David Plouffe said, arguing that what mattered more was how the President faired in swing states like Ohio and Florida, where for now he has an edge. “Do I think that things will be fundamentally different in Ohio tonight? I absolutely reject that.”  He also said the president had overall done a good job – an assessment not shared by liberal and Democrat bloggers who averred widespread disappointment.

“My sense is that he came across as more steady than Mitt Romney and less testy and the Americna people like that.  I think the President came across as more likeable and more connected to the middle class”.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Support / IT Sales / Graduate Sales / Trainee

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has now arisen for a Sale...

Recruitment Genius: Administration Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to continued growth an exce...

Recruitment Genius: Service Manager

£37000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A position has become available...

Recruitment Genius: Administrator

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has a track record...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable