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Obama vs. Romney Debate: Highlights From the Showdown in Denver

romney obama debate
Anthony Jacobs, Getty Images

The first debate of the 2012 presidential election campaign between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney got started a little after 9 p.m. ET from the University of Denver’s Magness Arena. Jim Lehrer, host of ‘Newshour’ on PBS, moderated the event, which covered domestic policy.

The first part of the evening centered on the economy. Lehrer asked each candidate to describe their differences on how they would create jobs, which led to a sprawling back-and-forth on not just jobs, but also taxes and the deficit. Lehrer tried to rein each candidate in, but both Romney and Obama overshot their allotted time.

On taxes, the candidates differed clearly, with Obama claiming that Romney supported large tax cuts that would increase the deficit. Romney countered by saying that he would lower tax rates but that it would remain deficit-neutral because he would also eliminate tax exemptions and loopholes. They continued to argue the particulars, but it’s hard to say whether either gained a clear advantage.

There were no major gaffes or stunning revelations. For the most part, it felt like a standard debate: each man presented his case and criticized his opponent’s position, and the poor moderator was basically helpless to get either of them to stop talking. Politicians…

The second half of the debate started with a discussion on entitlements. Both men seemed to agree that they didn’t have huge differences over how to handle Social Security, and Lehrer was quite proud at finding a moment of agreement. Things then took a big turn, though. The next half hour featured heated exchanges over Medicare and, particularly, Obamacare, with the president strongly attacking Romney’s proposals on Medicare and Romney returning fire on the president’s signature health care reform bill.

The last segment of the debate covered the role of government, focusing largely on education. Each man sang the praises of teachers, but with all the prior time spent on the economy and entitlements, Lehrer had to cut things short.

As far as presidential debates go, this one was probably helpful in the sense that Obama and Romney have very different priorities and policy ideas, and they made those clear to anyone watching. But if you were hoping for a significant screw-up or glaring misjudgment, you’re probably out of luck. But hey, at least you’re not Jim Lehrer, who had by far the toughest job of the evening.

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