Obama comes out swinging at Romney after debate

'If you want to be president, you owe the American people the truth'

US President Barack Obama has accused Mitt Romney of being dishonest, after a televised debate that most observers agreed his Republican rival won.

Speaking in Denver, Colorado, Mr Obama urged his rival to tell the "truth" about his own policies.

A total of 67.2 million people watched Wednesday's debate, the Nielsen TV ratings service announced.

The Obama campaign has said there will be some "adjustments" in strategy before the election on 6 November.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll on Thursday suggested Mr Romney had a net positive rating for the first time in the presidential campaign.

The poll said 51% of voters viewed him positively, with Mr Obama at 56%. The Republican moved ahead of the president on which candidate voters trust to handle the economy, create jobs and manage the deficit.

'Big Bird'

Mr Obama told a rally of some 12,000 supporters on Thursday: "When I got on to the stage, I met this very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney.

'The president is trying to convince you he's doing well. He's not.'

"But it couldn't have been Mitt Romney, because the real Mitt Romney has been running around the country for the last year promising $5 trillion in tax cuts that favour the wealthy. The fellow on stage last night said he didn't know anything about that."

The president continued the theme in front of an estimated crowd of 30,000 people on the campus of University of Wisconsin-Madison later in the day.

At a campaign rally in Virginia on Thursday evening, Mr Romney did not respond directly to the president's criticism.

But he did argue that Mr Obama had failed during the debate to make his case for another term.

Race to the White House

"I got the chance to ask the president questions people across the country have wanted to ask him." Mr Romney said.

"Such as why is it he wanted to push through Obamacare at a time when we had 23 million people out of work?"

During Wednesday night's head-to-head Mr Romney repeatedly denied the $5tn (£3tn) claim.

Fact-checkers have said that Mr Romney's proposal to lower taxes by 20%, abolish estate tax and the alternative minimum tax would reduce revenue by $5tn over a decade.

The Republican has said he would help offset that by eliminating tax loopholes; the non-partisan Tax Policy Center says the sums do not add up.

Mr Obama told Thursday's rally: "So Governor Romney may dance around his positions. But if you want to be president, you owe the American people the truth.

"So here is the truth. Governor Romney cannot pay for his $5 trillion tax plan without blowing up the deficit or sticking it to the middle class. That's the math. We can't afford to go down that road again."

The Democratic president also mocked Mr Romney's plan to cut government subsidies for the PBS television channel that produces Sesame Street.

Mr Romney said during the debate: "I love Big Bird", adding that would not stop him axing federal funding to the public broadcaster.

"Thank goodness somebody is finally getting tough on Big Bird," Mr Obama told Thursday's rally. "It is about time. We didn't know that Big Bird was driving the federal deficit."

'Damage control'

Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams dismissed the president's attack.

"In full damage-control mode, President Obama today offered no defence of his record and no vision for the future," he said.

People at a bar in Levittown, Pennsylvania react to the presidential debate

Obama strategist David Axelrod told reporters on a conference call that the campaign would now rethink its strategy.

"We are going to take a hard look at this," he said. "I'm sure we will make adjustments as to where to draw the line in these debates and how to use our time."

The candidates went head to head on Wednesday for 90 minutes on jobs, taxes and healthcare.

Opinion polls agreed that Mr Romney had the upper hand in the debate - the first of three between the White House rivals.

Various surveys gave Mr Romney a 46-67% margin, with Mr Obama trailing on 22-25%.

The president was criticised for appearing hesitant and subdued, while the former governor - who has been lagging in the race - seemed animated and assertive.

Vice-presidential candidates 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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