DENVER (AP) - In a showdown at close quarters, President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney sparred aggressively in their first campaign debate Wednesday night over taxes, deficits and steps needed to create jobs in a sputtering economy.
Obama accused his rival of seeking to "double down on the top-down policies" that led to a devastating economic downturn four years ago.
But Romney, standing a few feet away on the debate stage, said at one point: "The status quo isn't going to cut it."
That was a reference to the weak economy and 8.1 percent national unemployment that is by far the dominant issue in the race for the White House. Public opinion polls show Obama with a slight advantage in key battleground states and nationally, and Romney was particularly aggressive in the debate's early going, like a man looking to shake up a campaign with a little less than five weeks to run.
Polite but pointed, the two men agreed about little if anything.
Obama said his opponent's plan to reduce all tax rates by 20 percent would cost $5 trillion and benefit the wealthy at the expense of middle income taxpayers.
Shot back Romney: "Virtually everything he just said about my tax plan is inaccurate."
The former Massachusetts governor and businessman added that Obama's proposal to allow the expiration of tax cuts on upper-level income would mean tax increases on small businesses that create jobs by the hundreds of thousands.