Obama gets edge after debate

Polls show Barack Obama has a slight edge over Mitt Romney after the presidential debate.

US President Barack Obama (R) speaks as Republican challenger Mitt Romney looks on during the first presidential debate at the university of Denver on October 3, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. Picture: AFP.

DENVER - An aggressive Mitt Romney took the fight to President Barack Obama on Wednesday and the Republican candidate appeared to breathe new life into his struggling campaign with a solid performance at their first debate.

As polls showed Obama with a slight edge among voters, Romney was on the offensive throughout the 90-minute encounter between the two rivals at the University of Denver.

The two men, standing side-by-side for the first time after months of brutal campaign attacks hurled at each other, clashed over taxes, healthcare and the role of government, reflecting the deep ideological divide in Washington.

Appearing poised and well-prepared, Romney zeroed in on weak economic growth and 8.1 percent unemployment that has left Obama vulnerable in his effort to win a second four-year term.

"Now, I'm concerned that we're on the path that's just been unsuccessful. The president has a view very similar to the one he had when he ran for office four years ago, that spending more, taxing more, regulating more, if you will, trickle-down government would work. That's not the right answer for America," Romney said.

The debate saw no haymaker punches thrown and not much in the way of one-line zingers. Instead, it was a war of attrition as each man used facts and figures to make his points and stress the differences between them.

Romney, however, may have done himself some favours with crisper answers than Obama, who sounded professorial and a bit long-winded despite his staff's best efforts to get him to give snappier comments.

The incumbent Democrat did put Romney on the defensive about his proposals for overhauling the US tax system.

Obama said Romney was promoting the same kind of tax cut proposals that former President George W. Bush pushed through Congress in 2001 and 2003.

"We ended up moving from surpluses to deficits and it all culminated with the worst recession since the Great Depression," said Obama.

In the face of attacks from Romney that the Obama healthcare overhaul of 2010 will hurt small-business hiring, Obama basically said his healthcare plan was modelled after the program Romney put in place as governor of Massachusetts, and it "hasn't destroyed jobs" there.