With New Moxie, Romney Resuscitates Campaign At First Presidential Debate
President Barack Obama started off the debate reminding everyone that he and the First Lady are celebrating their 20th anniversary.
Once Mitt Romney got his chance on the first question, he congratulated Obama on the anniversary and said that he was sure that the debate was the "most romantic place he could be, here with me."
Romney made a strong showing at the debate, being aggressive and engaging while the president maintained a bemused, aggravated stand. Polls released immediately after the debate by CBS and CNN showed voters favored Romney's debate performance twice as much as Obama's.
As many as 100,000 people watched the debate on YouTube, with more than a hundred million watching elsewhere. Twitter said the debate was the most tweeted about political event in its six-year history, topping the nominating conventions a month ago.
The debate focused on domestic issues, starting with the economy, which has been a soft spot for the president's campaign.
Throughout the debate, Romney continued to hammer home the idea that the economy has failed during Obama's four years in office--a style he's clung to to attack the president.
While Romney continued to propose his focus on small business, Obama said that he hoped to usher in "a new economic patriotism, when America does the best when the middle class does the best."
Obama insisted that Romney's plan includes a 5-trillion dollar tax cut (which Romney denied) using the point to emphasis the Republican nominee's burdening of the middle class.
"For 18 months he's been running on this tax plan and now with five weeks before the election he says his big, bold idea is 'never mind,'" Obama said, hitting Romney while the Republican seemed to be on a bold upswing in the debate.
Obama focused on the idea of keeping "money in [middle class] people's pockets."
During the response to a question on federal regulation, Romney stated his plan to repeal Dodd-Frank, while Obama accused Romney of not wanting to regulate big money.
When asked about their personal philosophies of the role of the federal government, Obama said that he knew his primary function is to protect the country as commander-in-chief, but that he also saw great possibilities to initiate reforms in areas like education in order to help the country grow.
Romney said that he believed in protecting the Constitution, the military and in preserving America's religious persuasion.
He also asserted that the federal government should allow individuals to grow, instead of impeding them through "trickle-down" government.
While Romney said that state and local governments hold the primary responsibility in affecting education, Obama said that the federal government has the opportunity to greatly improve it.
Romney claimed that his home state Massachusetts is "first" in education.
The debate Wednesday night is the fourth time Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have been together in person, according to CNN.
They last met in 2008 when Democratic and Republican debates happened back to back, and before that they shook hands and such at a Labor Day Parade in 2007.
Their first meeting was in 2004, when Obama joked at a dinner in Washington that Massachusetts, Romney's home state, was a "great launching pad" for a presidential campaign.
Reports that Romney's staff prepared the Republican nominee with zingers for Wednesday night suggested that he might get to fire back on the highest level.
US News reported that the Romney campaign may be getting their strategy from George W. Bush, who said that one-liners are important in debates.
"I think Ronald Reagan in 1980 came up with some zingers and that became the measure of success to a certain extent, " Bush said. "Unless there is the zinger or the kind of the cute line or whatever, the quotable moment, there's no victor in a sense."
This works, because a former adviser to Bush said that Romney would "have to exceed expectations by a lot. He needs to have a moment that gets people to view him differently. And he needs to articulate some ideas that people think are credible on the economy. He needs to appeal across the board."
Romney did seem to come out with some mustered moxie, on par with the president's graceful, professorial tone.
He, at the very least, seemed like his blood boiled like Obama's did--you could see it in both of their faces, even with Romney's go-to condescending glare.
Romney said to Obama, "Mr. President, as president you're entitled to your own house, your own plane, but not your own facts."
Later, after Romney listed some things he'd do the day after being elected, Obama said "Well, it looks like he'll have a busy first day, because he also plans on repealing Obamacare."
At one point, Obama rebuked Lehrer for cutting him off. "I had five seconds left before you interrupted me," he said.
Romney rolled out several lines that seemed prepared, like telling the president that he uses the term "Obamacare" with all due respect, to which Obama said, "I like it."
Both candidates made a point to invoke specific average Americans they've met on the campaign trail who highlight the need for their respective policies, like Obama's Vegas teacher and Romney's guy from St. Louis.
As usual, they tried to personalize the issues as much as possible.
Obama used the example of his grandmother to speak on the "entitlements" of social security.
Romney mentioned that he used to consult with hospitals, "astonished" at their creativity in finding ways to cover patients' insurance.
In closing statements, Obama detailed other specific Americans he's observed as president, saying that he has had faith in American genius and determination over the past four years and will continue to have that faith as he fights for the people in his second term.
Romney said that he will get the economy back up again for Americans, removing the "middle class squeeze" that Obama created.
Romney's closing statement attacked Obama much more than Obama's attacked Romney.
States such as Iowa and Ohio have already started early voting, and in Colorado nearly 80 percent of voters cast ballots before Election Day in 2008, according to Times Call.
While Romney's advisers worked to program him with words to distract from his awkwardness, Obama's people have downplayed expectations for the well-spoken president's performance.
They said that his busy schedule hasn't allowed for enough practice, which seemed like bravado, given his speaking ability.
Read more of Neon Tommy's coverage of the debate here.
Reach Assistant News Editor Michael Juliani here.
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