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Romney in Debate Says Obama Favors ‘Trickle-Down Government’

Wednesday, 03 Oct 2012 09:56 PM

(For more campaign news, see ELECT.)

Oct. 3 (Bloomberg) -- Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said President Barack Obama favors a form of “trickle- down government” that will result in more taxes and regulations, as the two met in their first debate in the race for the White House.

“That’s not the right answer for America,” Romney, 65, said tonight at the University of Denver.

Obama, 51, said Romney backed policies that would favor the wealthy, resulting in what the president called the type of “top-down economics” that led to the nation’s current economic challenges.

Obama also pressed Romney to detail how he would close tax loopholes and change deductions so that tax cuts he’s proposed - - which the president said total $5 trillion -- wouldn’t end up hurting the middle class.

“I’m not looking for a $5 trillion tax cut,” Romney replied, saying his goal is to reduce the federal budget deficit. He said he wouldn’t under any circumstances raise taxes on middle-class families.

The first of three matchups between the two candidates this month comes as recent polls have put Obama ahead nationally and in swing states, those with a history of voting for either major party nominee in presidential races.

What’s at Stake

The meeting offers Romney a chance to remake his image as someone who can connect with Americans and bolster the economy. Obama is aiming to avoid mistakes while defending his record as U.S. unemployment hovers above 8 percent.

Moderator Jim Lehrer is devoting half of the 90-minute debate to the economy, with the remainder touching on health care, the role of government and governing. More than 50 million people will tune in, based on past viewership.

“The debate certainly matters,” Robert Gibbs, an Obama campaign adviser, said in a Bloomberg Television interview before the face-off began. “I have no doubt this is going to be a close election.”

Romney, a former Massachusetts governor and co-founder of Boston-based Bain Capital LLC, has focused his campaign largely on the economy, arguing that Obama’s policies have failed. Romney often tells voters that his time in the private sector means he knows how to create jobs.

Unemployment

The U.S. jobless rate has remained stuck at or above 8 percent since February 2009, a record stretch of high unemployment dating back to 1948, when figures began being compiled. Still, Obama got a boost last week, when preliminary Labor Department revisions showed that more jobs had been created than lost since he took office.

Public confidence is also starting to turn around. A Sept. 21-24 Bloomberg National Poll found that Americans by 43 percent to 33 percent see themselves as better off under Obama’s tenure. The Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index has risen more than 15 percent this year as of today’s close.

Romney’s team expects Obama to bring up the secretly recorded “47 percent” remark, in which the Republican described almost half the country as dependent on government benefits. Romney plans to respond with the same argument made in an ad released by the campaign last week, in which he speaks directly to the camera and reassures voters that he cares about all of them, aides said.

Tax Deductions

In a sign that he’s prepared to give more details on his policies, Romney this week told a Fox station in Denver that he’s considering limiting tax deductions to $17,000.

The proposal would fall hardest on the wealthiest taxpayers, who make the most use of deductions. The cap would be one piece of a three-part concept for broadening the tax base, said a campaign aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the policy option.

Although Romney’s aides have played down the debates, Romney has been telling donors for months that they represent one of three big moments to shift the race. The other two -- the selection of his vice presidential candidate, Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, and late August’s Republican National Convention -- didn’t give him a boost in public opinion polls.

Romney has spent days in debate rehearsals, pitted against Ohio Senator Rob Portman playing the role of Obama. He has focused on the timing of scripted zinger lines and worked on attacking Obama while not appearing angry, aides said.

Obama’s campaign has had to weigh whether the president should play it safe and hold what polls suggest is a small to moderate lead or strike a more aggressive tone. Obama aides also have tried to lower expectations, saying the president has been too busy governing to spend much time practicing. He has been rehearsing the past few days in Henderson, Nevada, with Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts -- the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee -- taking the role of Romney.

While Obama participated in more than 20 debates during the Democratic primary four years ago and three during the general election, he hasn’t had the more recent experience that Romney has. Aides said the president intends to cast Romney as an ideological candidate, a strategy that might win swing voters.

--With assistance from Julianna Goldman, Jennifer Oldham and Margaret Talev in Denver and Mike Dorning and Richard Rubin in Washington. Editors: Don Frederick, Cesca Antonelli

To contact the reporters on this story: Kristin Jensen in Washington at kjensen@bloomberg.net; Julianna Goldman in Denver at jgoldman6@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeanne Cummings at jcummings21@bloomberg.net

© Copyright 2017 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

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