DENVER (AP) - President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney have sparred aggressively in their first campaign debate over taxes, deficits and strong steps needed to create jobs in a sputtering national economy.
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Obama accused Romney of seeking to "double down" on the same economic policies that created the economic downturn four years ago. Romney responded that "The status quo is not going to cut it."
Romney said he had plans to fix the economy, overhaul the tax code, repeal Obama's health care plan and replace with a better alternative, remake Medicare, pass a substitute for the legislation designed to prevent another financial crash and reduce deficits - but he provided no new specifics despite Obama's prodding.
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Both candidates went over time limits with their responses and wrecked the format of the 90-minute event that was moderated by PBS' Jim Lehrer.
The rivals debate twice more this month.
Debate opens with sparring on economy
Obama and Romney opened their first of three presidential debates Wednesday with disagreements on how the government could help add jobs.
Obama says the United States is making progress in repairing the struggling economy he inherited when he took office while Romney says the Democratic incumbent favors a "trickle-down government, if you will."
Obama pointed to progress made in saving Detroit's auto industry and rebuilding the housing market. Romney, meanwhile, says he would take a different path that gets government out of the way for American businesses.
Obama says Romney's plan would cut taxes for high-income workers. Romney says that is incorrect and that wealthy Americans will do just fine regardless whether he or Obama is in the White House.
Candidates wrangle over differing tax plans
Obama says that Romney's tax agenda would not reduce the deficit. He says it would include a massive tax cut for the wealthy and more military spending.
The president is citing former President Bill Clinton, suggesting the nation should return to the Clinton-era tax rates he says would lead to economic growth.
Obama says simple "math" and "common sense" show Romney's approach is not a recipe for job growth.
Romney says virtually everything Obama says about his tax plan is inaccurate. Romney says his plan will cut taxes, reduce spending and grow the economy.
Romney says, quote, "I will lower taxes on middle income families."
Medicare tackled by both candidates
Obama and Romney clashed on the popular - though costly - health program for seniors. Both promised that they would not cut benefits for older Americans but sharply disagreed about options for younger workers.
Obama says Romney would turn Medicare into a private system and put seniors at the mercy of insurance companies.
Romney counters that Obama already has raided the Medicare fund and weakened the system.
Obama says he is cutting down on excessive payments in the system so the program survives for future generations.
Romney calls those cuts a slashing from seniors' care to pay for Democrats' health care law.
Romney, however, didn't mention that his running mate, Paul Ryan, proposed similar cuts.
Candidates disagree on Wall Street reform
Obama and Romney sparred over federal regulations that restrict Wall Street and financial institutions.
Romney is softening his usual anti-regulatory rhetoric, saying government rules are essential in a free economy. But he says the Dodd-Frank law that targeted the financial industry in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis was a mistake.
Romney says the law has "unintended consequences" because it allows banks to grow to the point that they are too big to fail. He says the law's mortgage requirements don't help homeowners.
Obama asks whether anyone thinks the financial crisis occurred because of too much oversight and Wall Street regulation. He says anyone who thinks that was the cause should vote for Romney.
Role of Government
Obama says Romney favors cutting a fifth of the Education Department's budget while Romney is countering that Obama directed $90 billion to so-called "green jobs" - a sum, he says, that would hire 2 million teachers.
Obama says there are challenges that only the federal government can solve. Romney says government should do only what is prescribed in the Constitution and challenges that only have federal solutions, such as national security.
Obama pointed to Romney's running mate, Paul Ryan, whose budget proposals make sharp cuts across the board. Romney retorted that Washington invested in new failed energy research.
The Associated Press