Romney lands punches against subdued Obama in first debate

By Cameron Joseph, The Hill

10/03/12 10:18 PM ET

Mitt Romney came out firing on President Obama in the opening minutes of the presidential debate, drawing sharp contrasts with the president’s economic plan and accusing him of misleading the public on Romney’s own plan.

Romney peppered his attacks with memorable phrases, claiming Obama’s policies were “trickle-down government” and that the president was instituting an “economy tax” on the middle class.

“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,” the GOP nominee said.

Obama responded by slamming Romney’s economic plan, saying the GOP nominee hadn’t explained how he’d pay for his proposed tax cuts.

“Governor Romney’s central economic plan calls for a $5 trillion tax cut, on top of the extension of the Bush tax cuts — that’s another trillion dollars — and $2 trillion in additional military spending that the military hasn’t asked for. That’s $8 trillion. How we pay for that, reduce the deficit, and make the investments that we need to make, without dumping those costs onto middle-class Americans, I think is one of the central questions of this campaign,” he said.

Romney charged back that the president was misrepresenting his plan.

“I don’t have a $5 trillion tax cut. I don’t have a tax cut of a scale that you’re talking about,” he said.

“I’ve got 5 boys. I’m used to people saying something that’s not always true but just keep repeating it and ultimately hoping I’ll believe it,” he added.

Economic issues dominated the first 45 minutes of the president debate, the first showdown between the two contenders.

There was a noticeable contrast in the candidate’s demeanor: Romney was much more animated and punchy than the president, who came off as subdued, tentative and at times irritable.

Romney, who has narrowly trailed Obama in recent polls, seemed to be looking to shake up the race with a strong attack on Obama’s record, talking directly to the president as he spoke.

He repeatedly attacked Obama’s record: among his charges were that Obama was instituting an “economy tax.”

“The people who are having the hard time right now are middle-income Americans,” he argued. “Under the president’s policies, middle-income Americans have been buried. They’re just being crushed. Middle-income Americans have seen their income come down by $4,300. This is a — this is a tax in and of itself. I’ll call it the economy tax. It’s been crushing.”

Obama fired back: “I believe that we do best when the middle class is doing well. And by giving them those tax cuts, they had a little more money in their pocket, and so maybe they can buy a new car. They are certainly in a better position to weather the extraordinary recession that we went through. They can buy a computer for their kid who’s going off to college, which means they’re spending more money, businesses have more customers, businesses make more profits, and then hire more workers.”

Romney also charged Obama with doubling the federal debt.

“The president said he’d cut the deficit in half. Unfortunately, he doubled it. Trillion-dollar deficits for the last four years. The president’s put it in place as much public debt — almost as much debt held by the public as all prior presidents combined,” he said.

Obama replied: “When I walked into the Oval Office, I had more than a trillion-dollar deficit greeting me. And we know where it came from: two wars that were paid for on a credit card; two tax cuts that were not paid for; and a whole bunch of programs that were not paid for; and then a massive economic crisis.”

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