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Obama, Romney Spar in First Debate

The big themes of Wednesday night's debate were the economy and health care


The economy featured very prominently in the debate on Wednesday, as President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney were asked to elaborate on their economic plans to create jobs and balance the budget.

"My priority is putting people back to work in America," said Romney, while sticking to his policy of not raising taxes.

Obama pointed out that Romney's plan, which he said would include $5 trillion in tax cuts and $2 trillion in military spending, would not be implemented without burdening middle class families.

Obama pushed for corporate taxes, while saying small businesses should get tax breaks for keeping jobs in America.

Romney responded with: "You raise taxes and you kill jobs."

While talking about tax cuts, Romney pulled out a quote that seemed to reference Vice President Joe Biden's gaffe, saying, "Under the president's policies middle income Americans have been buried." Earlier this week, Biden said the middle class had been buried for the last four years.

Meanwhile, Obama, perhaps in a hat tip to former President Bill Clinton's very successful speech at the DNC, said, "It's math, it's arithmetic," while talking about Romney's tax plan.

Obama stuck by his claim that Romney's tax plan would raise taxes on middle class families by $2,000, and Romney pulled out the numbers of people who are unemployed, and on food stamps.

The candidates talked about Medicare and Social Security as well.

Romney said he would not change anything for those currently under Social Security, but insisted that Obama's plan would cut $716 billion from Medicare. The New York Times fact check said that the cut was savings from reduced payments to insurance companies.

Obama said Romney's plan would leave people like Obama's grandmother at the mercy of insurance companies. He argued that the voucher program pushed by Romney would leave the most vulnerable with no coverage.

Continuing on the theme of the economy, Romney conceded that regulation was necessary, but said, "You've seen regulation become excessive. It's hurt the economy."

Obama looked directly at the cameras and asked, "Does anyone out there think we had too much oversight and regulation on Wall Street?"

When asked whether he would repeal Dodd-Frank, Romney said, "I would repeal it and replace it."

Debating the role of government, Obama and Romney outlined their differences, with Obama stressing the importance of education. Romney reiterated, "I'm not planning on cutting education funding."

Romney pushed back on Obama investing in green energy, saying a number of those companies were owned by people who contributed to Obama's campaign. While explaining his stance on the role of government, Romney pointed to the Constitution and Declaration of Independence and said "trickle down government" did not work.

In his closing statement, Obama said his faith and confidence in the future is undiminished. "If you vote for me, I'll fight just as hard in a second term," he said.

Romney said, "I'm concerned about America." This election, he said, was about the course of America, and two very different paths.

The new format of the presidential debates allowed the candidates to debate policy in six 15-minute segments.

Moderator Jim Lehrer of PBS NewsHour seemed to lose control of the debate as Obama, and more frequently Romney, ran over time in their comments.

Romney seemed like the more aggressive debater, making eye contact, and Obama seemed to miss a few opportunities to fact check or push back on Romney's comments.