- President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney faced off tonight in the first of three debates leading up to the November election.
Before the debate, we asked local voters what they wanted to hear. Their response: specifics.
That was host Jim Lehrer's request as well. He asked the candidates to focus on "differences, specifics, and choices."
Lehrer repeated the request to be specific about ten minutes into the debate. That's when the candidates started talking about fixing the deficit.
Obama's campaign has claimed Romney's tax cuts for the wealthy will cost $5 trillion.
"The the fact is, if you are lowering rates the way you describe, Governor, then it is not possible to come up with enough deductions and loopholes that only affect high income individuals to avoid either raising the deficit or burdening the middle class.It's math. It's arithmetic," Obama said.
In that claim and in Romney's response, it's clear both candidates are trying to win over the middle class.
"I don't have a five trillion dollar tax cut. I don't have a tax cut of the scale that you're talking about. My view is we ought to provide tax relief for people in the middle class. But I'm not going to reduce the share of taxes paid by high income people. High income people are doing just fine in this economy, they'll do fine whether you're president or I'm president. People who are having a hard time right now are middle income Americans," Romney said.
When the debate turned to healthcare, both candidates pointed to Romney's health care law in Massachusetts.
"Governor Romney did a good thing, working with democrats in the state to set up what is essentially an identical model," said Obama of his Affordable Health Care Act. "As a consequence, people are covered there, it hasn't destroyed jobs, and as a consequence, we now have a system where we have an opportunity to start bringing down costs as opposed to leaving millions of people out in the cold."
"I like the way we did it in Massachusetts," Romney said. "I like the fact that, in my state, Republicans and Democrats come together and work together. What you did instead was to push through a plan without a single Republican vote. What were some differences - we didn't raise taxes. You've raised them by a trillion dollars under Obamacare."
The vice president and Representative Paul Ryan are next up to the podium on October 11.
The presidential candidates face off again October 16th.