US election: Polls show Romney won TV debate with Obama


Highlights from the first US presidential debate between Obama and Romney

US Republican candidate Mitt Romney won the first of three televised debates with President Barack Obama, polls and analysts say.

After the 90-minute duel centring on taxes, the deficit and healthcare, polls gave Mr Romney a 46-67% margin with Mr Obama trailing on 22-25%.

Commentators said Mr Romney appeared in command while Mr Obama was hesitant.

Mr Obama has led national polls and surveys in the swing states that will decide the 6 November election.

The BBC's Mark Mardell says if the gap narrows or Mitt Romney starts moving ahead of Mr Obama, that will be a huge boost for his campaign, and suggest he could win the White House.

However if they hardly budge, then the Republican challenger will be in deep trouble, the North America editor adds.

Stopping slump

President Obama appeared subdued, occasionally asking moderator Jim Lehrer, of US public television network PBS, for time to finish his points.

As theatre, a battle of image and confidence, Mitt Romney was the clear winner. He had obviously practised so hard and so long that he was nearly hoarse. But not quite. Instead his voice was a touch deeper. No bad thing.

He looked Mr Obama in the eyes as he interrupted with animation, overriding the moderator, insisting on a comeback. He didn't seem rude. He did seem in command and to be enjoying the scrap.

President Obama on the other hand looked as though he'd much rather be out celebrating his wedding anniversary with his wife. He started out looking very nervous, swallowing hard, not the confident performer we are used to seeing.

Republicans certainly feel that they have used the debate to shift the perception of their candidate, shake up the etch-a-sketch and talk about his passion for job creation and focus on the middle classes.

The next string of opinion polls could hardly matter more. If they narrow or he starts moving ahead of Mr Obama, that will be a huge boost for his campaign, and suggest he could win the White House. However if after an acclaimed victory the opinion polls hardly budge, then it would mean he is in a very serious hole indeed.

The two candidates attacked each other's economic plans, with Mr Obama describing his rival's approach as "top-down economics" and a retread of Bush-era policies.

"If you think by closing [tax] loopholes and deductions for the well-to-do, somehow you will not end up picking up the tab, then Governor Romney's plan may work for you," he said.

"But I think math, common sense, and our history shows us that's not a recipe for job growth."

Mr Romney derided Mr Obama's policies as "trickle-down government".

"The president has a view very similar to the one he had when he ran for office four years ago, that spending more, taxing more, regulating more - if you will, trickle-down government - would work," Mr Romney said.

"That's not the right answer for America."

Mr Romney pledged not to reduce taxes for wealthy Americans, and said Mr Obama had misrepresented Mr Romney's tax plans on the campaign trail.

Both camps rushed to defend the respective performances.

"The average person at home saw a president who you could trust," Obama adviser David Plouffe told reporters. "That's what the American people are looking for."

But senior Romney aide Eric Fehrnstrom said the president had spoken "only in platitudes".

"If this were a boxing match, it would have been called by the referee," he said.

Presidential debates 2012

  • 3 Oct Denver, Colorado. Domestic policy. Moderated by Jim Lehrer (PBS)
  • 11 Oct Danville, Kentucky. Vice-presidential debate. Moderated by Martha Raddatz (ABC)
  • 16 Oct Hempstead, New York. Town-hall style foreign policy debate. Moderator: Candy Crowley (CNN)
  • 22 Oct Boca Raton, Florida. Moderator: Bob Schieffer (CBS)

Commission on Presidential Debates

Commentators largely agreed that Mitt Romney had performed better.

New York Times columnist and Nobel laureate Paul Krugman said, Mr Obama "did a terrible job in the debate, and Romney did well".

"But in the end, this isn't or shouldn't be about theatre criticism, it should be about substance," Mr Krugman said, defending Mr Obama's statements while charging that "much of what Romney said was either outright false or so misleading as to be the moral equivalent of a lie".

ABC News quoted one of its consultants and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile as saying: "Mitt Romney did a lot of good... was a little more aggressive than the president."

Washington Post conservative columnist George Will said Mr Romney's performance had "stopped [his slump in the polls] in its tracks".

A CNN/ORC International poll of 430 people who watched the debate showed 67% thought Romney won, compared with 25% for Obama.

A CBS News poll found a 46% support for Mr Romney, 22% for Mr Obama and 32% saying it was a tie.

And a Google survey gave Mr Romney a 47.8% advantage against 25.4% for Mr Obama.

Clash on 'Obamacare'

Race to the White House

On healthcare, Mr Romney said that Mr Obama's "Obamacare" reform law of 2010 had increased health costs and kept small businesses from hiring.

Even as he pledged to repeal Mr Obama's health law, Mr Romney praised and defended a plan he himself had previously signed as governor of Massachusetts that is widely hailed as the model for the Obama law.

Mr Obama, meanwhile, said his plan had kept insurance companies from denying coverage to sick people.

The University of Denver debate was the first in a series of three presidential forums and one vice-presidential encounter this month.

Running-mates Joe Biden and Paul Ryan will meet in Danville, Kentucky on 11 October, before the second presidential debate on 16 October.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 1011.

    The real Barack Hussein Obama showed his true lack of abilities last night. He is not a quick thinker and is utterly lost without his teleprompter.

    "Where performance is measured by results". Obama's results have been poor.

    Obama depends on his team of academics - "Its difficult to soar like an eagle when you are surrounded by turkeys".

  • Comment number 1010.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1009.

    Mr. Romney showed me 3 things last night. One, he wants the job as President of the USA. Two, he actually has a plan to get the economy on back on tract and create more jobs. Three, his economic plan is an entirely different approach than Mr. Obama's. Mr Obama showed me 1 thing. He doesn't have any new ideas than those he had 4 years ago.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1008.

    Re: the 'polarised' US - should Romney get elected, could it split like Czechoslovakia did, with the blue states either starting a new nation (or joining Canada similar to the Jesusland map scenario)?

    I just hope, if he gets in, Romney doesn't start World War 3 between the US and the BRIC countries. Whatever the sides end up being, the UK and Europe will be caught in the crossfire.

  • Comment number 1007.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1006.

    To be fair, when Ronnie had the finger on the red button we were all a bit scared!

    Obama's problem is that he is an academic, a little too cool and aloof. I am sure he wanted to appear presidential and above petty pointscoring but he's going to have to come down into the zone a bit more for the next debate. Cleverer people than me are prepping him ( hopefully ) so get ready for King Curtis.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1005.

    Siding with none but attaching with TRUTH;we can expect that USA surely get an opportunity to reclaim the entire which were lost for no fault of the it but fallen out of grace due to not giving not enough of thought on various Subjects before ending various tasks undertaken believing that all are exact and same to complete these through local hands.Now that ORDER is broken;we must revive it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1004.

    I cannot see that the debate outcome will make much difference, except that Romney seems to think Deregulation is the way to go, but it's hard to tell because he will not give any details about anything at all that he is proposing for the future, so who knows
    Voting for a shape shifter who will not tell what his plans are in detail seems like a recipe for disaster to me
    He will give $ to the Rich

  • rate this

    Comment number 1003.

    The days of Obama reading from cue and nice simple people chorusing "Yes we can" are long gone. What people have is unemployment , decline, loss of pension security and the country getting into China's orbit. The biggest shock for me was not the genuflection before the Saudi king but seemingly excusing the Islamic murder of the Ambassador on some video.

    Yesterday all this was brought into focus

  • rate this

    Comment number 1002.

    @ 488Truthbefreed .. America has always been divided and it probably always be, it just getting more polarised.
    Looking in from the outside it feels worrying that TV debates can be given such seeming weight that they can be used to shape the fate of a nation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1001.

    "We used to breath a bit easier when we heard that Andropov liked jazz or Chernenko enjoyed a pint of ale now and again. "

    When they reported on ale Czernenko was long dead.

    And jazz liking Andropov ordered an assassination of JPII whom he considered a much bigger threat than Lech Wałęsa re precipitating collapse of Soviet rule in Eastern Europe.

    [he was right; he failed too.]

  • rate this

    Comment number 1000.

    In a few decades the USA will be a spent force. If they elect Romney, it might just be a quicker death.
    The BRIC-countries are getting itchy feet already. Let's just hope they have a habitable world left to conquer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 999.

    It's abundantly clear from reading some of the comments that so many americans are as ignorant, bigoted, small minded, politically and religiously scary and dangerously extreme as those they are at war with in other contries - do they ever look in the mirror and see what we see?

  • Comment number 998.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 997.

    It must be hard for a President who for four years really does not have to answer live questions by the Opposition to suddenly face
    live questions.If an election can be determined by such a debate I suggest, for the sake of democracy that Presidents get better training in answering tough questions.You don't want a bad candidate winning because he is good at tough questions. That's madness.

  • rate this

    Comment number 996.

    I think its evident from this video that Barack Obama does not want to be President of the United States any more. I think he came in the all the best intentions in the world. But back room machinations, difficulty getting policies voted in and Washington politicking has drained him. You can see that so clearly. In spite of what he says, it appears he's thrown the towel in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 995.

    So much hope and expectation was put into Obama's hands after the 2008 election, no wonder everyone is disappointed in him; the man is only human, he can't solve the bigger problems in the US in just 4 years. Was very impressed to see him put forward the risky ideas of gay marriage and "Obamacare" in election year and hope to see them become reality

  • rate this

    Comment number 994.

    986.Geography Nerd – Thank you for your permission, as if we needed it…

  • rate this

    Comment number 993.

    Obama is accused of "Bailing out the Banks" and people conveniently forget that it was GWB who bailed them out
    Obama is prosecuting them!
    Case in point all the prosecutions of JP Morgan/Chase for Libor Rate fixing & other crimes they just do, smile & pay little fines for!
    The Bankers were given immunity from the last collapse by Congress
    who are the real criminals for selling out the People of USA

  • rate this

    Comment number 992.

    Rolling Stone has published an excellent post-debate analysis of Romney's lies. Beautifully, clearly presented. Don't let Romney's lies fool you, look for objectivity.


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