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mitt romney and barack obama in first debate Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama answers questions during the first presidential debate at the University of Denver on Wednesday, October 3, 2012, in Denver. (Photo: AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Election 2012: A Policy-Driven Debate

Obama and Romney spar over jobs, taxes, and the economy

By Jenna Winocur | null null , null

DENVER — Undecided voters got to do some comparative shopping between the two candidates for President at the first of three presidential debates last night.

The brisk back-and-forth between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney gave undecided students at the University of Denver something to think about as many of them pondered their first chance to vote in a General Election.

"Most of us don't have a presidential election the first time we get to vote," said Mason Seymore, an anthropology/psychology double major. "It's a lot to put on an 18-year-old, so it's going to take a lot of thought and consideration before I decide."

Candidates and select audience members experienced the debate in the warm comfort of Ritchie Center. Students, meanwhile, braved a newly arrived cold front to watch on giant outdoor screens. Hundreds of students sat on hay bales and huddled under blankets to watch the debate as part of DebateFest on campus.

Moderator Jim Lehrer of PBS NewsHour let the candidates take the lead in a free-form debate format. Questions were broad and focused on domestic issues, ranging from health care to the role of government. But most of the back-and-forth centered on the economy, jobs, and taxes.

Candidates were allowed two minutes each to address a question. They then used the additional 11 minutes in each of six segments to discuss their differences.

Arguing the Specifics

The debate began on a friendly note. President Obama pointed out that he and his wife, Michelle, were celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary that evening. Both spouses were in the audience and greeted each other warmly before the debate began.

The candidates quickly began quoting numbers and listing specifics in their policy proposals. The debate was one point/counter-point after another.

On the subject of taxes, Obama said Romney was proposing a $5 trillion tax cut for the wealthy that he could not pay for.

"He's been asked over 100 times how he would pay for it without raising revenue," Obama said.

Romney countered that he is not proposing a $5 trillion tax cut. "I would never propose anything that would add to the deficit," he said.

They also disagreed over Medicare and the new health care law now commonly referred to as Obamacare.

"I like that term," Obama said, pointing out that his plan is much like one Romney passed in Massachusetts when he was Governor.

Romney said his plan in Massachusetts worked because it was designed to meet the needs of a specific state. He opposes Obama's plan because "the federal government should not be telling people" how to handle their health care.

Voters Still Undecided

So who won the first debate of the season? Students outside the debate hall debated that question after the candidates gave their closing statements.

"The President seemed to be more specific with his points," said engineering major Irene Wilson, 19.

"Romney had some really good points," said Katrine Aucmeiusi, a 19-year-old international business major. "He was good at countering Obama's arguments."

"Romney had some good points, but the numbers don't add up," said Alycia Everitt, 19, an engineering major.

"I don't think there was a winner or a loser," said Wilson. "Both got good points across. They did a really good job explaining the topics."

Still undecided, these students said they would be watching the next two debates just as carefully.

The next presidential debate will be held on Tuesday, October 16, in Hempstead, New York. But before Obama and Romney meet again, their running mates get a chance to debate. The vice presidential debate will be held on Thursday, October 11, in Danville, Kentucky. The final presidential debate will be held on October 22 in Boca Raton, Florida.

Kid Reporters will be covering those debates, so stay tuned to the Scholastic News Election 2012 website for their stories!


Scholastic News Kid Reporters are on the campaign trail! Keep up with latest election news on the Election 2012 website.


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