Romney, Obama come out swinging
'Governor Romney says he has a five-point plan,' Obama said, referring to his Republican opponent, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. 'Governor Romney doesn't have a five-point plan. He has a one-point plan to make sure the people at the top play by a different set of rules.'
Romney, at each turn, fought back with jabs at Obama's policies on jobs and energy, then later challenged Obama's reaction to the attack on the American consulate in Libya, in which four Americans were killed.
'The President's policies have been exercised over the last four years and they haven't put Americans back to work,' Romney said.
Obama said he would look to save and help businesses create jobs, similar to the bailouts of the auto industry that are credited with saving General Motors and Chrysler.
'When Governor Romney said we should have let Detroit go bankrupt, I said I'm going to bet on the American auto workers and American auto industry and it's come roaring back,' Obama said.
Later in the debate, Obama and Romney went back and forth over how the administration handled the attacks in Libya.
Romney accused Obama of either misleading people about or not knowing the cause of the attack, saying administration officials initially blamed the attacks on a protest over a video demeaning Muslim people, then later called it an act of terror.
Obama said he spoke at the Rose Garden of the White House the day after the attack and said, 'that this was an act of terror.'
Romney sprang out of his seat and challenged the President's claim.
'You're saying that you called it an act of terror the day after? I just want to be sure we have that on the record,' Romney said.
Obama encouraged the debate moderator, Candy Crowley of CNN, to 'check the transcripts.'
According to the official transcript of the speech on the White House website, Obama said in the speech: 'No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for.'
The two mixed it up directly at several other points in the debate, including when they argued over the administration's energy policies.
After Obama said energy production has increased in the United States, Romney said the growth was in spite of the President's policies.
'None of it happened on federal land,' Romney said. 'The administration has cut permits in half.'
'Very little of what Governor Romney just said is true,' Obama said.
'How much did you cut permits on federal land?' Romney said, turning to the President.
When Obama started speaking, Romney interrupted him, asking the same question.
'Do you want me to answer the question? I'll answer the question,' Obama said, facing his opponent directly.
'Production on government land is down,' Romney said later.
'That's not true. It's just not true,' Obama said.
'I don't think anyone believes that you would fight for oil, coal or natural gas,' Romney said.
The two also disagreed on taxes and immigration reform.
Obama said Romney wants to cut tax rates across the board by 20 percent, but won't specify how he'll make up for the lost revenue, except for targeting cuts in federal aid to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and to Planned Parenthood.
'When he's asked how he's going to do it, which loopholes and deductions he's going to cut, he can't tell you,' Obama said. 'We haven't heard any specifics from Governor Romney other than Big Bird and eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood.'
He said Romney's plan would add $5 trillion in deficits and said Romney, as an investor, would be suspect if someone came to him with a proposal to spend that much money without a concrete plan on how to make the money back.
'You wouldn't have taken such a sketchy deal,' Obama said.
Romney criticized Obama for failing to get immigration reform done, despite enjoying a 'super majority' of Democrats in Congress during his first two years.
'Why, if he said that in his first year, he would introduce legislation for immigration reform, he didn't do it,' Romney said. 'He won't answer that question.'
Obama did not address the question directly, saying he took steps to increase border security while championing legislation later in his term, called the DREAM Act, that would provide a direct path to citizenship for people brought to America as children.
The debate had at least one light-hearted moment.
During an argument over the country's relationship with China, Obama said Romney would not be the ideal man to be 'tough' on China and he repeated a statement in campaign ads that Romney personally invested in companies that outsourced jobs to China.
Romney countered that the investments in question were made by his blind trust and that Obama would likely see similar investments if he looked at his pension.
'Have you looked at your pension?' Romney asked Obama several times, before the President replied, drawing laughter from the debate audience: 'No, I haven't looked at my pension. It's not as big as yours.'
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Tim Buckland may be reached at email@example.com.