, DENVER, Colorado, Oct 4 – Republican challenger Mitt Romney performed strongly on Wednesday in his first presidential debate, putting Barack Obama on the back foot as he reignited hope in his flagging campaign.
Needing a good showing to turn around some poor poll numbers, the former Massachusetts governor went on the offensive from the get-go, hammering the president for economic policies he said had “crushed” America’s middle class.
Romney played the aggressor throughout the 90-minute encounter and appeared far more at ease in the cut-and-thrust of the debate format, which left Obama seeming at times nervous and irritated, even under-prepared.
Obama jumped on Romney’s lack of specifics as the rivals clashed fiercely on taxes and health care reform, but the president stuttered into several of his more detailed answers, while the Republican was crisper and clearer.
“I’m concerned that the path we’re on has just been unsuccessful,” said Romney, fighting for his political life as he trails in the opinion polls with less than five weeks to go 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 would 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 hit back hard against Obama’s claims as the tax issue sparked the fiercest clashes of the night.