Republican nominee puts Obama on the back foot

Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts Governor and Republican presidential hopeful, struck a strong note on Thursday night and appeared to dominate the first presidential debate at the University of Denver, putting President Barack Obama on the back foot. However, neither landed a finishing blow.

The debate, first in a series of three in which the two men will square off on key issues of domestic and international concern, saw Mr. Romney challenge Mr. Obama on the economy and job creation, and then questions of tax policy, entitlements, deficit, healthcare and the proper role of government.

Post-debate commentary appeared to focus on Mr. Obama’s apparent lack of punching power, including on the fact that he did not allude to Mr. Romney’s damaging “47 per cent” comment even under a segment called “entitlements.” Neither did he make any direct mention of Mr. Romney’s involvement with Bain Capital or seek to link him to predatory capitalist activities as some had done in the past.

At numerous points, Mr. Romney appeared to even dominate the moderator, PBS anchor Jim Lehrer, arguing — successfully on several occasions — for more time. When he got it, he pressed the President further, charging him at one point with running a “trickle-down government.”

But Mr. Obama too scored several key points, particularly when he sought to debunk the notion that Mr. Romney could create a $5 trillion tax cut without either increasing the deficit or requiring the middle class families to pick up the tab. In doing so, Mr. Obama echoed the former President, Bill Clinton’s now-famous war cry from the Democratic National Convention: “It’s arithmetic!”

At several points, Mr. Obama looked directly into the camera and cautioned the American people that they ought to question what alternative plans Mr. Romney had since he had proposed to repeal the health care and financial reform laws his administration passed.

This point in particular would appear to resonate with some outside the venue. Speaking to The Hindu , Onkar Singh, 20, and Raman Kaur, 20, both students of the University of Denver and residents of Denver suburb Aurora, said that though it was “a huge thing” that Mr. Obama had passed healthcare reform, he needed four more years to fulfil his policy agenda.