Presidential candidates spar on taxes, jobs, economy; Ayotte praises performance
President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney battled over economic issues Wednesday in a 90-minute presidential debate at the University of Denver.
Obama argued his plans would ultimately lead to strong job growth, while Romney charged the President's policies had failed to turn around the economy and make a significant dent in 8.1 percent unemployment.
'Governor Romney has a perspective that says if we cut taxes skewed toward the wealthy and roll back regulations, that we'll be better off. I've got a different view,' Obama said.
Romney laid out a five-point economic plan and accused the Democrat of relying too heavily on big 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. That's not the right answer for America,' Romney said.
Obama repeated his accusation that Romney would return to a 'top down' approach that would decrease taxes for those with high incomes.
'Governor Romney's view is to cut taxes primarily to benefit the wealthy,' the President said.
Romney immediately called Obama's assertion false.
'I'm not going to reduce the share of taxes paid by high-income people,' Romney said. 'They've been doing just fine in this economy. I know it's something you and your running mate like to keep saying, but it's not true,' he said.
Romney said he would bring an approach that relies on a smaller government. He turned around Obama's 'top down' comment by calling the President's approach a 'trickle-down government.'
An audience of up to 60 million was estimated for the debate, which was moderated by PBS anchor Jim Lehrer.
Romney said portions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act - which he said labeled five banks as 'too big to fail - essentially wrote the banks a blank check.
'That was the biggest kiss we could have given to New York banks,' Romney said.
'If anyone thinks that the economic collapse happened because of too much regulation on Wall Street, then Governor Romney is your candidate,' Obama countered.
Obama said the inspiration for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was the Massachusetts universal health care plan signed into law by Romney while he was governor.
'There is a reason Governor Romney did what he did in Massachusetts,' Obama said of the Republican, who has promised to repeal the President's signature health care law.
Romney said there were key differences between the Massachusetts plan and the federal plan, in that the Bay State's plan was a bipartisan effort - he said just two state legislators voted against it - while the federal law was 'rammed through' without a single Republican vote.
'What we did in Massachusetts is a model for the nation - state by state,' Romney said.
After the debate, U.S. Sen. Kelly A. Ayotte, R-N.H., who is a surrogate for Romney, praised Romney's performance.
'Mitt Romney's confident, articulate performance tonight laid out the big choice this November in the clearest terms yet,' Ayotte said in a statement. 'President Obama has an abysmal record and no second-term agenda - meaning voters can only expect another four years of job-killing policies, budget-busting spending, and government-centered health care funded by our hard-earned tax dollars if he is re-elected.
'A Mitt Romney presidency, on the other hand, will foster upward mobility and success by championing job creation, implementing market-based health care reforms, reining in federal spending, cutting taxes for middle-class families, and protecting American interests abroad.'
New Hampshire Union Leader Staff Writer Tim Buckland contributed to this report.