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With a surprisingly strong showing, Republican challenger Mitt Romney today shook the race to the White House by worsting incumbent Barack Obama in the first high-stake US presidential debate by calling into question his track record on the economy, health care, jobs and fiscal deficit.
Using the first of the three debates, 65-year-old Romney regained momentum by aggressively standing up to 51-year-old Obama and accused him of failure to lead the country out of the deepest economic downturn since the great depression.
The 90-minute prime-time showdown was an online sensation with channels reporting a near record viewership. Soon after, a CNN and CBS flash polls declared Romney the winner.
Romney was voted by 67% of the registered voters, while Obama was supported by just 25%. The results gave a big boost to the Romney campaign given that all the national polls shows that it is a tight race between the two.
The debates, a regular feature of American presidential campaigns since 1960, allow a chance to measure up the leaders who would be president as they stand side-by-side.
The poll results showed Romney won comprehensively in all aspect and issues of the debate.
If Romney's goal was to show that he could project equal stature to the President he succeeded offering his campaign the lift that Republicans had been seeking, while Obama stopped short of challenging his rival's specific policies.
The possible reason, political analysts said was that Romney focused his entire debate on job creation, while Obama tried to deal the issue of deficit.
Romney, who has been trailing behind Obama throughout this election cycle, albeit through a close margin, needed such a strong performance to generate added momentum to his campaign.
"I don't want to cost jobs. My priority is jobs. Get the rates down, lower deductions and exemptions to create more jobs, because there's nothing better for getting us to a balanced budget than having more people working, earning more money, paying more taxes. That's by far the most effective and efficient way to get this budget balanced," said Romney.
The Republican leader cashed in on a weak economic growth and 8.1% unemployment that have left Obama vulnerable in his bid for a second term in the White House.
Being repeatedly pushed to defensive by Romney on jobs front, Obama at one point of time even said the moderator that he might want to move on to another topic.
"You may want to move on to another topic, but I would just say this to the American people. I think math, common sense and our history shows us that's not a recipe for job growth," Obama said.
"The approach that Governor Romney's talking about is the same sales pitch that was made in 2001 and 2003. And we ended up with the slowest job growth in 50 years. We ended up moving from surplus to deficits. And it all culminated in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression," Obama said.
Undeterred Romney, who appeared to be more at ease and well prepared for the debate, continued to attack Obama with strong convincing arguments.
"You've been president four years. You said you'd cut the deficit in half. It's now four years later. We still have trillion-dollar deficits," Romney pitched to which Obama had no response.
"I'm concerned that the path that we're on has just been unsuccessful. The president has a view very similar to the view he had when he ran four years ago, that a bigger government, spending more, taxing more, regulating more -- if you will, trickle-down government would work. That's not the right answer for America. I'll restore the vitality that gets America working again," Romney asserted.
Later in an email to his supporter, Obama hoped that he made them proud. "I hope I made you proud out there explaining the vision we share for this country," Obama wrote in an email to his supporters after the debate.