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 851.

    787. Whitefall

    You forgot to mention their love of shooting each other (and everyone else for that matter)!

  • rate this

    Comment number 850.

    It is entire nonsense to for any media organisation to state who "won" a presidential debate. The idea that people are watching a debate, digesting the scripted responses made and immediately judging who to vote for is a notion constructed by journalists. It doesn't have any real basis in reality. The vast majority are already decided on who they will vote for, this is just media circus.

  • rate this

    Comment number 849.

    In last TWO minutes given to each of the candidate, Romney has clearly articulated what he is going to do:
    1. 12 Million Jobs with Increased wages
    2. Tax cuts for all class people
    3. No cuts in Military
    4. With all of the above he promised to balance the budget and contain the deficit.

    Think about it and then vote.
    President Obama failed to deliver in this debate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 848.

    On behalf of the sane people in the UK please, please America, vote for Obama! What is wrong with universal health care? Our NHS isn't perfect but you would be hard pressed to find a UK citizen who seriously wants to dismantle it. Taxes are essential not a punishment. Obama is not perfect, but he is a sophisticated and intelligent thinker and the world needs him, not Romney.

  • rate this

    Comment number 847.

    The basic question is; Why would anyone vote for a Republican when they're the ones who got us into this mess?

    Romney came across as an arrogant, pushy rich guy who totally disregarded the rules of the debate and walked all over Lehrer when it came to time limits. He stated his lies, didn't defend his lies against the President's facts, and finished up by summarizing his lies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 846.

    It takes a special kind of pillock to believe you make a country rich only by looking after the top 0.1% of the population.

    Romney is certainly special

  • rate this

    Comment number 845.



    You can call America and Americans all the nasty names you want,"

    Thank you very much, but surely the point of having a President is that the rest of the World can hate him, and not hate the American people themselves?

    Oddly enough all the Americans I know are a smashing bunch and bear no resemblance to the way they're depicted on TV.

  • rate this

    Comment number 844.

    @ Rather_Be_Cycling (832). Your post itself indicate that none can fool an existing fool- not even once. You don't have to worry of Obama to make you fool. I am reasonably sure you voted for GW Bush- not once, but twice!
    Yeh, you rather be cycling- enjoy......

  • rate this

    Comment number 843.

    It is really the case of which is the lesser of the two evils - neither stand out as excellent or exciting options. I suspect that Romney will be a disaster as a president and Obama will be no better than he was the past 4 years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 842.

    I choose Liberty & personal responsibility over ur 'caring' Statism. I guess you'll be happy with this election then: No change. More of the same Wars, QE, inflation, debt, unemployment, loss of individual rights, company & bank bailouts, increases in the welfare state, support of the FED counterfeiting, forget habeas corpus & ignoring Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the Constitution.

  • rate this

    Comment number 841.

    I'm infinitely more scared of Romney in the Whitehouse than I am of Iran having nuclear weapons! Says it all really.....

  • Comment number 840.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 839.

    @824 Whitefall

    No, it would be immoral not to address the deficit, because it's immoral to heap debt on future generations, ie. To steal from future generations.
    Actually, the thing I found laughable was Romney claiming to have any concept of morality at all.

    With regard to the deficit though, Romney's chums created it so surely they should bear most of the cost, otherwise it would be immoral

  • rate this

    Comment number 838.

    Obama's revenue=Taxes... Romney wants to limit the power of the Federal government, and give more power back to the states and to the PEOPLE... if that isn't a good leader, i don't know what is. America it is time to take responsibility for your actions and stop relying on the government to take care of you with all its tax heavy programs (yes there are exceptions, this i understand)

  • rate this

    Comment number 837.

    I don't want a president that can debate well. I want a president that has better policies for this country, and Obama gave more examples of they ways he would handle things. Romney was vague in his arguments, like he'll figure it out when he finally gets into office.

  • rate this

    Comment number 836.

    Did you like the "Early-Christian-Martyr" look on O'Bama's face most of the night?

  • rate this

    Comment number 835.

    I watched the debate and I have to give it to Romney on points. Both men for the most part stuck to their talking points and neither candidate delivered a knock out blow but Romney came across as poised, relaxed and confident. Obama did not, in fact he seemed almost annoyed when forced to defend his record as if he were thinking "I've answered this before, why are they asking again?"

  • rate this

    Comment number 834.

    794 Niall G
    Don't waste your breath he doesnt get empathy as he thinks helping other less fortunate than him is wrong...As do many Americans and British too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 833.

    799.Rosetta - "... there is more to this world than just you!" What's your point? Are you saying no other country puts their own best interest first?

  • rate this

    Comment number 832.

    The only people astonished that Obama is, in reality, a genuine political lightweight, are those who thought his being "black" and offering a vague promise of "Hope and Change" was sufficient to being President of the United States. Fool me once, fool me twice?


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