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 471.

    "The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts." Bertrand Russell

    Good post- I love this quote from Russel. It probably comes to mind at least once a week. Wise people are timeless the rest are duped and march behind the seemingly 'always so certain'

  • rate this

    Comment number 470.

    If Romney "won" this debate then all it proves to me is that americans are as FICK as I think they are.

  • rate this

    Comment number 469.

    Romney? Obama? Bush? Who cares? As we all know, whoever it is will be getting their orders issued directly from the NWO headquarters. The Scheherazade will only continue to be played out for so long before even the most ardent doubter can see what is right in front of their eyes.

    Have a nice day.

  • rate this

    Comment number 468.

    So, what has Mitt Romney said to make him win this debate? Only in America could backing a policy where people may be forced to die because they are not wealthy enough bring votes... Or perhaps in a dictatorship?!?!

  • rate this

    Comment number 467.

    Well. That was unexpected wasn't it?! Mitt (what kind of silly name is that?) did very well against Barak (what kind of silly name is that?).

    I though Obama looked old and tired. Must do better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 466.

    Shock Horror. A somewhat right wing US politician, a Republican even, comes across better in a debate with that darling of the left, Barack Obama. All you left wing, anti-Americans, spitting your careless bile, may have to face up to the fact that you socialists and your servants in the chattering classes do not have a monopoly on intellect, in the UK or the US. Watch Biden v Ryan.

  • rate this

    Comment number 465.


    I have no interest in having to use the internet to find out what silly letters mean in regards to American politics. By using such silly letters, the nation of America just look incapable of using the english language.

  • rate this

    Comment number 464.

    Of course he did. FInally Romney's prudent economic vision gets through to voters without the endless "filtering" by the obscenely left-wing bias of the mass media.

  • rate this

    Comment number 463.

    Unfortunately, Obama's performance was flat. It seems that he could not do well without a teleprompter (?).

  • Comment number 462.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 461.

    I always feel uneasy when I see that the best person the US electoral system throws up is someone like Romney to challenge for the President of the USA,in the last 60 years there have only been 4 great presidents,the system has got to be flawed,not sure what they can do to alter it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 460.

    More truthful BBC headlines would be: 'Romney Floors Obama in Round 1'

  • rate this

    Comment number 459.

    449. "Don't you get it? The US government was NEVER intended to be a charity that forces people to donate to it for the sake of others. It's an illegitimate role!"

    Things have changed since the Constitution was written. America has the infrastructure to cope with a population of over 300 million. Why wouldn't the government's role change also? It would be ridiculous if it stayed the same!

  • rate this

    Comment number 458.

    If Romney gets the job the best thing the rest of us can do is find a corner and hide in it until its all over!
    You know for sure that man is going to kick a wasp nest!

  • rate this

    Comment number 457.

    A comment for Brits: remember a guy named Nick Clegg? Remember how well he was supposed to have done in the TV debate? And look what happened to his share of the vote. This isn't the X-Factor and voters know the difference.

  • rate this

    Comment number 456.

    Agreed - Mitt Romney won the debate.
    Obama showed his propensity to dislike anyone cutting him off, interrupting his point of view. This did not come across well.
    In any case - Mitt, Barak - no diference to the Wall Street bankstas who really run the country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 455.

    Seeing this the following quote comes to my mind: "The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts." Bertrand Russell

  • rate this

    Comment number 454.

    The US has a population of 314,500,000 and these are the best the two main parties can find to stand for election ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 453.

    46 Minutes ago

    This was just a debate so don't build bridges on sand.Election will tell more.

    Sorry to write, but what a silly comment. The election will tell the world who the next POTUS will BE. Not merely 'more' (Of course sadly it won't tell us who got the most votes....)

    Also astonished your silly comment is an editor's pick!! Ha!

  • rate this

    Comment number 452.

    432. Whitefall

    You are correct, but it seems the global Government's of this age are more intent on taking away the rights of the individual as opposed to protecting them. Unless of course, you're loaded tax haven celeb types, or Government officials. Their rights and happiness is prioritised above all others. The rights of the common man are no longer existent.


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