The first of the presidential debates has wrapped up, with President Obama asking voters to stay the course and Mitt Romney arguing that change is necessary because the "middle class is being crushed." The early consensus seems to be that the president was a little off his game, or at least playing it too safe, while Romney was sharper. The AP calls him "particularly aggressive." Some highlights:
- Obama opened by wishing Michelle a happy 20th anniversary, notes Politico. When he got to his first real remarks, he pivoted to a familiar theme: "The question tonight is not where we've been, but where we're going."
- Romney congratulated Obama on his anniversary, and added a joke. "I'm sure this was the most romantic place you could imagine, here with me." He then laid out his familiar broad themes, including energy independence and a balanced budget.
- Obama: “Governor Romney has a perspective that says if we cut taxes skewed toward the wealthy and cut back regulations, we’ll be better off. I have a different view.”
- Romney: "Virtually everything [Obama] has just said about my tax plan is inaccurate," he said, adding, “I don't have a $5 trillion tax cut. ... We ought to apply tax relief to people in the middle class, but I’m not going to reduce the share of taxes paid by high-income people. I’m not looking to cut massive taxes."
- Health care: Romney said he likes his Massachusetts plan because it was done in bipartisan fashion, unlike Obama's. Well, responded the president, then congressional Republicans should have taken lessons from Massachusetts Democrats on cooperation.
- Education: After Obama accused Romney of seeking to cut funds, the challenger responded, "Mr. President, you're entitled to your own airplane and your own house, but not your own facts."
- But Obama played some offense, criticizing Romney for being vague on details for his various reform plans. "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."
- Big Bird: Romney told moderator Jim Lehrer that he would cut PBS funds, notes USA Today. "I'm sorry Jim. I'm gonna stop the subsidy to PBS. I'm gonna stop other things. I like PBS, I like Big Bird, I actually like you too."
Odds and ends, and early reaction:
- Obama "appears slow and passive, as if he is addressing reporters in the Rose Garden, and letting repeated opportunities to challenge Mr. Romney pass," writes Adam Nagourney at the New York Times.
- Romney "took the offensive" writes Jerry Markon at the Washington Post and appeared "more vigorous than he often is on the campaign trail."
- Liz Heron at the Wall Street Journal notes that "Poor Jim" was trending during the debate, with the Twitter consensus that Lehrer couldn't control these two.