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67% think Romney won debate: poll

DENVER -- Mitt Romney battled back in his uphill drive to oust U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday with an aggressive debate performance that put his campaign on a more positive footing after weeks of stumbles and knocked Obama off-stride.

In the first of three presidential debates this month, Romney went beyond expectations as the two candidates stood side-by-side for the first time after months of campaigning against each other from long distance.

Looking to claw his way back into a race that has seen Obama hold an edge among voters, Romney was on the offensive throughout the 90-minute encounter with Obama. While the president landed some punches on Romney's tax plan, he did not appear as prepared as his rival and missed several opportunities to attack.

With under five weeks to go until the Nov. 6 election, it was uncertain whether Romney had managed to change the trajectory of a race that has favored Obama. It is difficult to dislodge an incumbent from the White House. In recent weeks, Romney has lurched from stumble to stumble and been unable to project a consistent message.

“How does it translate into the horse race? That's unclear,” said Steven Schier, a political science professor at Carleton College in Minnesota. “Romney should have some momentum. The question is whether he can maintain it.”

But there was no question that Romney's campaign felt it was now in a better position. In the “spin room” afterward, Romney advisers hung around for 90 minutes talking to reporters, long after the Obama side had decamped.

A CNN/ORC snap poll said 67 percent of registered voters surveyed thought Romney won the debate at the University of Denver, compared with 25 percent for Obama.

Romney and Obama clashed repeatedly over taxes, health care and the role of government in ways that reflected the deep ideological divide in Washington, one which has often contributed to political gridlock.

Romney zeroed in on weak economic growth and 8.1 percent unemployment that have left Obama vulnerable in his effort to win a second four-year term. Government has taken on too big a role under Obama, dampening job creation, Romney argued.

“What we're seeing right now, in my view, (is) a trickle-down government approach, which has government thinking it can do a better job than free people pursuing their dreams. And it's not working. And the proof of that is 23 million people out of work,” Romney said.

Fact checkers took issue with some of the assertions made by the former Massachusetts governor, like the number of people unemployed, but he appeared more poised and better prepared than his opponent.

Obama argued that under his leadership, the economy had been brought back from the brink, with 5 million jobs created in the private sector, a resurgent auto industry and housing beginning to rise.

“You know, four years ago, we were going through a major crisis. And yet my faith and confidence in the American future is undiminished,” Obama said.



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Teri McClain watches the first presidential debate between Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at the University of Denver.

(AP/AFP)

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