Said Obama: “At some point the American people have to ask themselves: Is the reason Governor Romney is keeping all these plans secret, is it because they’re going to be too good? Because middle class families benefit too much? No.”
The two men debate twice more this month, but they were first going their separate ways on Thursday. Obama had campaign stops in Colorado and then Madison, Wis., while Romney was booked into Virginia. All three states are among the nine battlegrounds likely to settle the race.
At times the debate turned into rapid-fire charges and retorts that drew on dense facts and figures that were difficult to follow. The men argued over oil industry subsidies, federal spending as a percentage of the GDP, Medicare cuts, taxes and small businesses and the size of the federal deficit and how it grew.
Obama sometimes seemed somewhat professorial. Romney was more assertive and didn’t hesitate to interrupt the president or moderator Jim Lehrer, who seemed to struggle to maintain control.
The wonky tone of the debate was a stark contrast to the harsh, broad-brush and sometimes personal attacks the two men make in person and in multimillion-dollar television advertising. Obama made no mention of Romney’s videotaped remark that 47 percent of the country doesn’t pay income taxes and believe themselves to be victims, entitled to government benefits. And Romney did not repeat a key theme from his national convention, that Obama’s “you didn’t build that” statement was a putdown of American initiative.
At the same time, Romney managed to make some points by personalizing his comments with recollections of people he said he had met on the campaign trail. In another folksy reference, Romney told Lehrer, a veteran of the Public Broadcasting Service, that he would stop the federal subsidy to PBS even though “I love Big Bird.”