Obama, Romney Clash on Economy in First Debate
"If you're 60 or 60 and older you don't need to listen further," he said, but he contended that fundamental changes are needed to prevent the system from becoming insolvent as millions of baby boom generation Americans become eligible.
Romney also made a detailed case for repealing Obamacare, the name attached to the health care plan that Obama pushed through Congress in 2010. "It has killed jobs," he said, and argued that the best approach is to "do what we did in my state."
Though he didn't say so, when he was governor Massachusetts passed legislation that required residents to purchase coverage — the so-called individual mandate that conservatives and he oppose on a national level.
Romney also said that Obamacare would cut $716 billion from Medicare over the next decade.
The president said the changes were part of a plan to lengthen the program's life, and he added that AARP, the seniors lobby, supports it.
With a two-minute closing statement, Obama said he had spent his first four years in office fighting for those in the emiddle class and those seeking to make it there. "If you'll vote for me, I'll fight just as hard in my second term," he said.
Romney was as critical of Obama's tenure as he was the moment the two men walked onto the stage.
If the president is re-elected, he predicted continued economic trouble for the middle class, chronic unemployment, higher costs for health insurance and "dramatic cuts to the military."
Obama took office in the shadow of an economic crisis but promised a turnaround that hasn't materialized. Economic growth has been sluggish throughout his term, with unemployment above 8 percent since before he took office.
The customary security blended with a festival-like atmosphere in the surrounding area on a warm and sunny day. The Lumineers performed for free, and Black Eyed Peas frontman will.i.am delivered a pep talk of sorts to Obama's supporters. School officials arranged to show the debate on monitors outside the hall for those without tickets.
There was local political theater, too, including female Romney supporters wearing short shorts and holding signs that said, "What War On Women?" — a rebuttal to claims by Obama and the Democrats.
The two presidential rivals also are scheduled to debate on Oct. 16 in Hempstead, N.Y., and Oct. 22 in Boca Raton, Fla.
Vice President Joe Biden and Ryan have one debate, Oct. 11 in Danville, Ky. Both men have already begun holding practice sessions.
Recent national polls show the two candidates in a tight race among likely voters. But Obama has the advantage in many of the battlegrounds, including Colorado. Romney pulled statistically even in crucial Florida, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll out Wednesday.
An NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll/Telemundo poll published Wednesday found that Obama had a full 50-point lead over Romney among Hispanic voters.