Incumbent US President Barack Obama (r) and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney
The first US presidential debate nearly a month before elections focused on the economy as President Barack Obama appeared 'weak' while his Republican challenger Mitt Romney was viewed by analysts as more prepared.
Sharing the stage Wednesday evening at University of Denver’s Magniss Arena for 90 minutes, Obama and Romney mainly debated and traded accusations about their plans for the nation’s economy, tax cuts, healthcare, and higher than normal unemployment rate.
Romney forcefully accused Obama of offering Americans nothing more than a "trickle-down government" for his second term in office and failing the nation’s middle class.
"It's not working," Romney insisted. "The proof of that is 23 million people out of work. The proof of that is 1 out of 6 people in poverty. The proof of that is we've gone from 32 million on food stamps to 47 million on food stamps. The proof of that is that 50 percent of college graduates this year can't find work."
Obama, who was widely described by political analysts as ‘flat’ during the debate, struggled to lay out his plan for a second term other than claiming that he would cut the nation’s climbing deficit in a way that would not hurt the “working people.”
He again resorted to his “promise” rhetoric, pledging to "fight every single day on behalf of the American people, the middle class, and all those who were striving to get into the middle class.”
“I've kept that promise,” Obama said, “and if you'll vote for me, then I promise I'll fight just as hard in a second term."
As the two US presidential candidates debated Wednesday night, early voting was already underway in 35 states across the nation. The target of both candidates and their respective political parties is to make enough impact during their debates to sway a small percentage of undecided voters that could tip the polls in their favor in key swing states, where voters appear equally divided on their presidential choice.
According to a Tuesday poll conducted by Wall Street Journal/NBC, only 5 percent of the electorate nationally remains undecided and are thus the targeted audience for both candidates.
Moreover, with the November 6 Election Day less than five weeks away, Obama maintains a small lead in most nationwide opinion polls and in the battleground states that may decide the election’s outcome.
This is while Romney has been harshly criticized for the past two weeks over a leaked video in which he expresses disregard for 47 percent of Americans that pay no federal income taxes as "dependent on government" and "victims."
Romney made obvious efforts during the debate to try to undo some of the damage caused by those remarks. He pointed to the struggles of people encountered on the campaign trail and claimed, "The reason I am in the race today is there are people who are really hurting today."
The Republican candidate, meanwhile, had boasted during his primary election campaign that he is not concerned about the poor in America.
The Denver debate, which was focused on domestic policy and leadership, was the first of three televised face-to-face encounters between the two presidential candidates in October.
Obama and Romney are scheduled to meet on October 16, in a town-hall-style debate on Long Island. The third debate, planned for October 22 in Boca Raton, Florida, will cover foreign policy issues.
Furthermore, US Vice President Joseph Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan, Romney's running mate, are scheduled to participate in a debate on October 11 in Danville, Kentucky.
This is while political scientists in the US have found in their study of American presidential elections that debates have rarely, if ever, changed enough votes by themselves to decide an election.