Denver: In the first face-off between US President Barack Obama and Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, the two leaders took on each other over the US economy. While Romney pushed for more tax cuts, saying middle class Americans were burdened by increasing costs, Obama vouched for tax breaks for companies that invest in the US.
Obama accused his rival of seeking to "double down on the top-down policies" that led to a devastating economic downturn four years ago. But Romney said at one point, "The status quo isn't going to cut it." That was a reference to the weak economy and 8.1 percent national unemployment that is by far the dominant issue in the race for the White House.
But Obama criticised Romney's prescriptions and his refusal to raise taxes and said, "if you take such an unbalanced approach then that means you are going to be gutting our investment in schools and education ... health care for seniors in nursing homes (and) for kids with disabilities." Obama said his opponent's plan to reduce all tax rates by 20 per cent would cost $ 5 trillion and benefit the wealthy at the expense of middle income taxpayers. Romney shot back saying, "Virtually everything he just said about my tax plan is inaccurate."
The two also took on each other head on over more job creations. Highlighting his government's achievement, Obama said, "My government created 23 million jobs in four years." He added that is government would create one lakh more jobs in teaching. Romney also said he would create more jobs.
The two campaign rivals clasped hands and smiled as they strode onto the debate stage at the University of Denver, then waved to the audience before taking their places behind identical lecterns.
There was a quick moment of laughter, when Obama referred to first lady Michelle Obama as "sweetie" and noted it was their 20th anniversary. Romney added best wishes, and said to the first couple, "I'm sure this is the most romantic place you could imagine, here with me." Both candidates' wives were in the audience.
The two men debated before a television audience likely to be counted in the tens of millions. They will meet twice more this month, and their running mates once, but in past election years, viewership has sometimes fallen off after the first encounter. Without saying so, the two rivals quickly got to the crux of their race - Romney's eagerness to turn the contest into a referendum on the past four years while the incumbent desires for voters to choose between his plan for the next four years and the one his rival backs.
(With additional information from the Associated Press)