In the first of three debates, President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney met to candidly express to the American public the differences in how they would each lead the country for the next four years.
Both candidates humanized their position through stories of people they had met on the campaign trail or the experience with their own family members. Obama stood on his record that under his presidency, five million jobs have been created, the automotive industry recovered and the housing market is rebounding. Romney stood behind his business experience and discussed his agenda for economic recovery by help the middle class and encouraging small businesses.
The first round of debates was held at the University of Denver, with the topic focused on domestic policy. The moderator was Jim Lehrer, the executive editor of the PBS News/Hour. The debate was an hour and a half broken into six segments of 15 minutes. The 15-minute rule seemed to be negated quickly as the first question exceeded 20 minutes.
Lehrer opened the evening explaining the format of the first debate, which was designed to focus on the differences between in each candidate’s plan to govern the country.
The first question asked was, “What are the major differences between both of you on creating jobs?”
Opening his response with a joke about how he was celebrating his wedding anniversary that night in front of millions of people, Obama reminded the audience of the progress he has made with the economic growth and how he is committed to getting jobs back to the U.S. He proposes to use money from reduced military spending to help fund programs to help the middle class recover.
Romney congratulated the Obamas on their anniversary and related a story about a woman he met campaigning who said she was out of work. Her husband has had four jobs in four years and now he too is out of work.
“The trickle-down approach doesn’t work,” he said.
The middle class was a focus of both candidates maintaining their commitment to see that this segment of the population will be taken care of. Romney stated he would provide tax relief to middle class while Obama attacked his opponent as out of touch.
Both candidates were careful to respond strongly to the questions, yet not appear adversarial. Romney, who had been trailing in the polls recently, contradicted Obama’s answers but humanized his approach frequently bringing up the middle class and interjecting tales about his family.
Using the same approach, Obama discussed social security by relating how his grandmother worked all her life and deserved to live on social security for all her efforts.
The differences between each candidates’ health care approach was clear. Romney promised to make repealing the “Obamacare” health plan a priority of his presidency. Obama attacked Romney’s voucher system of privatizing health care for seniors as being too selective.
Romney entered the debate trailing in the polls behind Obama by four percent.
Media reaction to the debate was that Romney came out energetic and on the offensive whereas Obama appeared overly relaxed.
“Everything Romney wanted to accomplish tonight was done. He came across as someone who knew his stuff. He looked like a credible alternative tonight,” said Chuck Todd of NBC News.
The next presidential debate will take place Tuesday, Oct. 16 and will include foreign and domestic policy.