Obama, Romney spar in first 2012 U.S. presidential debate

Friday, October 5, 2012

U.S. President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney sparred Wednesday evening during the first of three presidential debates leading up to the 2012 election.

Barack Obama
Mitt Romney
Barack Obama (left) and Mitt Romney.
Image: U.S. Dept. of Defense and Gage Skidmore.

According to Nielson, approximately 67.2 million people tuned in to the 90-minute debate moderated by Jim Lehrer of PBS as President Obama, the Democratic nominee, and Romney, the Republican nominee, exchanged jabs on domestic policy and the U.S. economy. Viewership increased 28% from the first 2008 presidential debate, which had an audience of about 52.4 million people.

Mitt Romney, during the debate, mentioned children's television show character Big Bird in discussing federal subsidies of public broadcasting, propelling the character to online popularity. Romney stated he would end subsidies to PBS, a U.S. public television network, saying, "I like PBS. I love Big Bird. I actually like you, too, Jim [Lehrer]." He continued, saying he would "not [...] keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it." Twitter, a social networking site, announced a maximum of 17,000 mentions of Big Bird per second. President Obama said on Thursday, "I just want to make sure I've got this straight: He'll get rid of regulations on Wall Street, but he's going to crack down on 'Sesame Street.' Thank goodness somebody's finally cracking down on Big Bird! Who knew that he was responsible for all these deficits! Elmo's got to watch out!"

According to a poll conducted by CBS News, 46% of the 500 uncommitted respondents believed Romney won the debate; 22% of respondents believed President Obama won the debate and 32% believed it was a tie. In the same poll, 56% of respondents held a more favorable opinion of Romney following the debate, while 11% expressed a poorer opinion and 32% did not change their opinion of the Republican. Of the respondents, 13% viewed President Obama more favorably, while 17% viewed him less favorably and 69% indicated they did not change their opinion.

Wednesday evening's debate was the first in a series of three presidential debates as part of the 2012 election. President Obama and Romney are to spar again in New York on October 16 and in Florida on October 22. One vice-presidential debate, between Republican Paul Ryan and Democrat Joe Biden, is to be held on October 11 in Kentucky.