Tuesday, December 10, 2013
By KAREN TUMULTY The Washington Post
Mitt Romney finally found his voice Wednesday night.
Republican Mitt Romney makes a point during the 90-minute first debate on domestic issues Wednesday night with President Obama. Pundits had said the first debate offered Romney his best opportunity to make gains in the race.
The Associated Press
SWING STATE POLLS SHOW ROMNEY GAINING
WASHINGTON - A poll of three swing states released Wednesday shows Republican challenger Mitt Romney pulling closer to President Obama in Florida and Virginia while continuing to trail in Ohio.
The NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist College survey of likely voters taken Sept. 30-Oct. 1 put Obama narrowly ahead in Florida, 47 percent to 46 percent, and in Virginia, 48 percent to 46 percent. Obama led by five points in both states in the Sept. 9-11 NBC/Journal/Marist poll.
In Ohio, without which a Republican candidate has never won the White House, Obama led, 51 percent to 43 percent. He was ahead, 50 percent to 43 percent, in last month's poll.
The results in Florida and Virginia show Romney closing the gap in two states crucial to his White House hopes as the two presidential candidates prepared for their first of three debates Wednesday night.
Romney also reduced Obama's lead in a national NBC/Journal poll released Tuesday. The president led Romney, 49 percent to 46 percent, among likely voters, down from 50 percent to 45 percent in a comparable survey two weeks earlier. Obama's margin increased to five points over Romney -- 48 percent to 43 percent -- when third-party candidates were included.
-- Bloomberg News
After many months of awkward moments and shifting campaign messages, he forcefully and confidently stood alongside President Barack Obama and offered an alternative economic vision to what he called Obama's "trickle-down government approach."
The two contenders seemed to swap roles Wednesday. Obama was the one who struggled for his footing, scowling on the split screen of millions of television viewers across the nation and often looking like a man who wished he was elsewhere.
Romney came to the debate at the University of Denver with a heavy set of goals, the chief of which was to regain ground on the economy. That issue is the uppermost of voter concerns and the one that he believes is his greatest advantage against the incumbent.
He pressed his indictment of Obama's stewardship of a disappointingly weak recovery, and he sought to sharpen his own proposals and to soften the perception among voters that he favors the interests of the wealthy over those who are struggling.
"The people who are having the hard time right now are middle-income Americans. Under the president's policies, middle-income Americans have been buried," Romney said, echoing a politically damaging phrase that Vice President Joe Biden had used the day before in describing the situation of average Americans over the past four years.
Obama, meanwhile, did not make many of the arguments that he and his campaign have used most effectively against Romney. He did not recount the former governor's career in private equity during which Romney laid off workers, or the secretly taped video in which the Republican nominee told wealthy donors that the 47 percent of Americans who do not pay federal income taxes are dependent on government and see themselves as victims.
In talking about the economy, which was the primary focus of the debate, Romney delivered none of the "zingers" that his team had boasted they were preparing.
Each candidate instead dug into the details of his proposals and sharply criticized his opponent's.
And in some areas, they ceded ground to the other, primarily to stress their differences.
Obama said he agreed with Romney that "our corporate tax rate is too high, so I want to lower it, particularly for manufacturing, taking it down to 25 percent. But I also want to close those loopholes that are giving incentives for companies that are shipping jobs overseas. I want to provide tax breaks for companies that are investing here in the United States."
And Romney insisted that he does not want to reduce the share of taxes paid by the wealthy.
"High-income people are doing just fine in this economy," he said. "They'll do fine whether you're president or I am."
Romney also tried to draw a clearer link between his tax proposal, which heavily benefits the wealthy, and the economic benefit he insists it would provide for everyone else.
"The problem with raising taxes is that it slows down the rate of growth. And you could never quite get the job done," he said. "I want to lower spending and encourage economic growth at the same time."
The central premise of the Republican nominee's campaign has been that voters, disillusioned with Obama's performance in reviving economic growth, would turn to Romney, who touts the expertise and experience he gained in the corporate world.
But with less than five weeks to go before Election Day, Romney has yet to make a convincing case for himself on that score -- and now is running about even with Obama on which candidate would better handle the economy.
Where Romney held a seven-point edge over the president on that question among registered voters in an August Washington Post-ABC News poll, the latest survey shows them tied, with 47 percent saying Romney would do a better job on the economy and the same proportion opting for Obama.
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