Obama and Romney Throw Down in First Debate

The two candidates discussed the economy, health care and governing.

Posted: 10/03/2012 09:00 PM EDT
barack obama and mitt romney

As President Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney walked on stage for their first mano-a-mano encounter, political observers had two questions. Would Mitt Romney, very much in need of a jolt, offer enough specifics and pre-planned zingers to turn the already high-stakes event into a game changer for his campaign? Could Obama emulate Bill Clinton's example on how to artfully frame an argument that makes his point and keep his opponent on the defense by pushing for specifics?

Either way, the night of political theater was destined to not disappoint.

The debate's theme was domestic policy, with segments on the economy, health care and the role of government in Americans' lives, all hot-button issues.

Obama, who had the first word, made clear from the start that he would continue his re-election team's months-long campaign to paint Romney as a cold-hearted businessman with no empathy for or even a remote understanding of what struggling Americans must do to survive in hard times.

Writes the Associated Press:

With a prime-time television audience likely counted in the tens of millions, moderator Jim Lehrer was pressed at time to enforce time limits on the two rivals. The president occasionally shook his head as Romney talked over Lehrer.

And Romney virtually lectured Obama at one point after the president accused him of seeking to cut education funds. "Mr. President, you're entitled to your own airplane and your own house, but not your own facts."

Romney said he had plans to fix the economy, repeal Obama's health care plan, remake Medicare, pass a substitute for the legislation designed to prevent another financial crash and reduce deficits — but he provided no specifics despite Obama's prodding.

Said Obama: "At some point the American people have to ask themselves: Is the reason Governor Romney is keeping all these plans secret, is it because they're going to be too good? Because middle class families benefit too much? No."

At times the debate turned into rapid-fire charges and retorts that drew on dense facts and figures that were difficult to follow. The men argued over oil industry subsidies, federal spending as a percentage of the GDP, Medicare cuts, taxes and small businesses and the size of the federal deficit and how it grew.

Obama sometimes seemed somewhat professorial. Romney was more assertive and didn't hesitate to interrupt the president or the moderator.

Despite the wonky tone of the debate, Romney managed to make some points by personalizing his comments with recollections of people he said he had met on the campaign trail. In another folksy reference, Romney told Lehrer, a veteran of the Public Broadcasting Service, that he would stop the federal subsidy to PBS even though "I love Big Bird."


Take our poll: Who do you think came out the victor of the debate? Obama or Romney?


BET Politics - Your source for the latest news, photos and videos illuminating key issues and personalities in African-American political life, plus commentary from some of our liveliest voices. Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.

(Photo: AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

facebook twitter

Who do you think came out the victor of the debate?

Black History Month: A Primer

A look at how Blacks celebrate achievements in February. 01/29/2013

Sneak Peek: Super Bowl XLVII Commercials

BET.com gives you sampling of game-day spots. 01/31/2013

Top 20 Super Bowl Moments

The NFL ranks the most memorable face-offs. 01/31/2013

The First Daughters Through the Years

See how Sasha and Malia have matured before our eyes. 01/22/2013

Fiscal Matters: Keeping Up With the Debate

The latest news on taxes, spending cuts, debt ceiling. 01/30/2013

Out and About: Beyoncé Gets Ready for Super Bowl XLVII

Plus, pics of Kim K., Big Boi, Rihanna and more. 02/01/2013

Top 10 Fashion Moments in Super Bowl History

Let's take a trip down memory lane. 01/30/2013

25 Influential Hip Hop Samples

Let's take a sec to think back...for Black History Month. 02/01/2013