Obama and Romney Spar in First Debate, Hollywood Reacts

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President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney sparred Wednesday like a pair of heavyweights in the first of three scheduled debates, but it was Romney who delivered the bulk of the punches. 

Romney established that he has the rhetorical moves and gravitas to stay in the ring with Obama, who seemed to fall far short of pre-debate expectations. Though Obama can be a soaring platform speaker, his tendency to be a slightly halting and pedantic debater surfaced frequently Wednesday. Romney, meanwhile, came out fighting, taking Obama to task over the issues.

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Early reaction had Romney clearly winning, but the real verdict will come in the next few days, as pollsters look for reaction in the crucial swing states, where the two candidates are running within a few points of one another.

For much of Wednesday’s debate, which was devoted to domestic policy,  the two candidates seemed to be talking past each other, swapping wholly different statistics on tax policy and health care reform. 

PBS anchorman Jim Lehrer—who heard Romney say he plans to zero out public television’s funding—was saddled with an unwieldy format that prohibited any audience response and repeatedly found himself unable to control either debater’s disregard for their allotted time limits.

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The two candidates came across as affable, rather than intense rivals, and if the evening deserved to be remembered for anything, it was the absence of heart-felt conflict or memorable phrases and exchanges. 

Early Twitter reactions:

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