Obama, Romney square off on jobs, taxes in first debate

Obama, Romney square off on jobs, taxes in first debate

President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney traded barbs late Wednesday in the first televised debate of the US presidential campaign, DPA reported.

Each attempted to paint his economic vision as best for the United States and his opponent as out of touch with what is needed.

"We all know that we've still got a lot of work to do. The question tonight is not where we've been, but where we're going," Obama said when asked about job creation in the first question of the debate at the University of Denver in Colorado.

Obama, 51, pointed to the dire straits the economy was in when he took office in 2009. The situation has improved, but more needs to be done, he said.

"Are we going to double down on the top-down economic policies that helped to get us into this mess, or do we embrace a new economic patriotism that says, America does best when the middle class does best?" Obama asked.

Romney, 65, outlined stories of voters he met on the campaign trail who had lost jobs during the recession and said he could help them.

"Yes we can help but it is going to take a different approach," he said, outlining a five part plan for encouraging business, boosting trade and creating jobs.

"I'm concerned that the path that we're on has just been unsuccessful," he said. "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. That's not the right answer for America. I'll restore the vitality that gets America working again."

Obama went after Romney on his tax plans that would cut rates on the wealthy, saying the Republican would have to raise taxes on middle class families to pay for it.

"How we pay for that, reduce the deficit and make the investments that we need to make without dumping those costs on the middle-class Americans I think is one of the central questions of this campaign," Obama said.

Romney dismissed the characterization, saying "virtually everything he just said about my tax plan is inaccurate." He said he wanted to lower tax rates across the board while dealing with government deficits.

He tied his tax plans to job creation, pointing to small businesses that need a tax break.

"My priority is putting people back to work in America," Romney said. "They're suffering in this country. If you talk about evidence, look at the evidence of the last four years."

The debate is seen as a crucial test, particularly for Romney, who trails in opinion surveys and is running out of time, with just five weeks until the November 6 election to sway voters. Obama must also work to maintain his lead and win a second four-year term.

A nationwide poll of likely voters released Tuesday showed President Barack Obama's lead over challenger Mitt Romney slipping to 3 percentage points.

The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll said 49 per cent of the people polled would vote for Obama, while 46 per cent said they would choose Romney. The 3-point difference is within the poll's margin of error, according to the pollsters.

The 90-minute debate could be a make-or-break moment for Romney who trails Obama not only in national opinion surveys, but in the handful of key states that will determine the election's outcome.

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