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 531.

    You sir are an IDIOT!! American capitalism?...the American dream?!! Yeah its just that..a dream!! "Just keep working hard and trying and someday you too could have it all..." The American dream? More like elitist propaganda to enslave the population in debt which equals control for them...oh and the problems in Europe at the moment are a direct result of "American Capitalism"..IDIOT!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 530.

    The early US also condoned slavery, ethnic cleansing, homophobia, systemic repression of women's rights. Do you agree with those? And the right to pursue happiness has never been regarded as a license to do over everyone else. Not by anyone sane anyway.

    Governments are supposed to change countries for the better. As the US has. Don't YOU get that?

  • rate this

    Comment number 529.

    ...Just look at the volume of comments removed by the "impartial" BBC censors.

    Oh, you can't, because they were exterminated.

    What a joke!

    What am I paying my license fee for????

    We need an open debate without the "impartial" middle man (or woman if you are one).

  • rate this

    Comment number 528.

    Question Mr Romney:
    Why were you a member of an openly racist organistation during your 20s?
    Why did you protest in Favor of the Vietnam War yet seek & receive deferments?

  • rate this

    Comment number 527.

    The demise of America as a global and financial powerhouse.....LIVE!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 526.

    522. "But do you regard "left of centre" as meaning the same thing as "left-wing"?"

    Quite. American media's "centre" is pretty far to the right of the America's public.

  • rate this

    Comment number 525.

    Obama would be wise to remember the adage "never argue with an idiot, he will reduce everything down to the level of his intellect and then beat you with experience". There is a assuredness in bigotry that is often mistaken for confidence.
    @#488 please explain how someone who believes 47% of america are "welfare scroungers" is likely to pull the country back together?

  • rate this

    Comment number 524.

    Obama was clearly out of his depth. Anybody who thinks he will fix the economy is naive. The debt of the US has reached astronomical proportion, the money was used in part on failed strategies. Obama did not take economics or Maths in College. He referred multiple times to the fact that his administration created 5 million jobs. That is false his administration created a net 125,000 jobs

  • rate this

    Comment number 523.

    It is not that Romney won, it is that we now see Obama in a position where he must answer for his policies. Those policies have failed. Just ask the unemployed, our veterans, our allies, or our children!

    See you at the voting booth...

  • rate this

    Comment number 522.

    2 Minutes ago
    PatBenatar. @489. You are the fantasist if you would have us believe that there is no one left of centre contributing to and controlling parts of the US broadcast media.

    But do you regard "left of centre" as meaning the same thing as "left-wing"? Post 489 said "no left-wing bias"

  • rate this

    Comment number 521.

    Intrigued as to what governs Editor's Picks. Is it the same logic that dictates when the BBC covers a story obsessively for weeks 24/7 vs. it suddenly gets very concerned on legal niceties and sensitivities and semantic assertions by in-house market rate talents that would make Bill Clinton blush in a Cuban tobacco store?

  • rate this

    Comment number 520.

    What you have to remember is this is only a speech. Talk is cheap and anyone can promise the world, delivering is another matter altogether adn something Romney won't deliver, given his comments a week or so ago.

  • rate this

    Comment number 519.

    There is very little difference between Obama and Romney. Jill Stein of the Green Party and Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party should have been included in the debates.

  • rate this

    Comment number 518.

    Let him win these debates, just so long as he does not win the election. Or, if he does win there is a strong enough Democrat Senate able to block his extreme policies, just as the Republicans have done to Obama. A Romney presidency will make the world a far more dangerous place than it currently is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 517.

    PatBenatar. @489. You are the fantasist if you would have us believe that there is no one left of centre contributing to and controlling parts of the US broadcast media. There are of course right wingers doing the same; so there is some balance. In the UK all the control and contributions to the broadcast media are from the left so there is no balance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 516.

    Who cares who wins a debate or an election in a foreign country. The people in the UK should be more concerned that a company called the BBC is wasting money on things that do not concern us. I pay like most British viewer £140/yr for the right to watch TV and what does the BBC do for a HYS, a foreign election.

  • rate this

    Comment number 515.

    Zikalify - Actually there are other factors as to why those promises lay broken. Obama is having to push through laws and policy in Republican Majority Congress and Clegg is in the minority party of the coalition where the majority party rule. No matter how hard they fight to keep those promises, they have huge obstacles knocking them back.

  • rate this

    Comment number 514.

    Politics is such a poor way to run a democracy - the press see to that. Neither Obama nor Romney know how to solve the problems in the US, no one really does. I wish someone would come out and say 'I'm not sure what will work, but I have some ideas and we can try them, if they don't work we can adapt and change' - but they'd be slated by the press.

  • rate this

    Comment number 513.

    @508 PatBenatar "The rules of chess do not change because the chess board and chess pieces are inanimate objects"

    It could be anything, poker, blackjack, whatever. It's important that the rules stay the same so that people aren't tyrannised by subjectivity. I mean, how would you like it if you were playing blackjack, you had 21, and then someone said "We changed it to 20, so now you lose."

  • rate this

    Comment number 512.

    Scary that the quality of leadership and actions are based on who can present the best in a false 'debate' environment!

    The fact the direction of the country is manifested in Romney is even more scary!!


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