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Presidential debate: Mitt Romney injects new life in his campaign (+video)

With the obits of his campaign all but written, Mitt Romney defies expectations and turns in a lifetime performance in the first presidential debate with rival Barack Obama. Suddenly, it's a new race.

By Staff writer / October 4, 2012

President Barack Obama (r) listens to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney during the first presidential debate at the University of Denver on Wednesday in Denver.

David Goldman/AP

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WASHINGTON

The final month of the 2012 presidential race just got more interesting.

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John Mone of the Associated Press reports on the first 2012 US presidential debate between President Barack Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney.

By turning in a stronger debate performance than President Obama – the instant post-game consensus of  Republicans, Democrats, and voters themselves – GOP nominee Mitt Romney has injected new life into a campaign that had nearly been given up for dead, despite only a slim deficit in polls.

Here’s a new poll to consider: A CNN/ORC survey of 430 Americans who had watched the debate, taken immediately after its conclusion, found that 67 percent said Mr. Romney performed better, versus only 25 percent for Mr. Obama. The likelihood of Obama’s reelection, as measured by the online betting market Intrade, plunged from 74 percent before the debate to 66 percent Thursday morning.

Even some of Obama’s strongest supporters were brutal in their assessments, even before the debate had ended.

“I can't believe I'm saying this, but Obama looks like he DOES need a teleprompter,” tweeted comedian Bill Maher, who has donated $1 million to the biggest pro-Obama "super political-action committee."

Immediately after the debate, Obama spokespeople appeared subdued in TV interviews. But by the morning after, the campaign was back on offense, accusing Romney of lying throughout the debate.

“When the dust settles, Romney's dozen flat-out falsehoods will be the only thing remaining from his debate performance – because avoiding the truth has been the very definition of Romney's candidacy, and he can't escape that with a single smooth appearance,” the Obama campaign said in an introduction to a videotape replaying the alleged lies.

The Romney campaign, for its part, released a new TV ad Thursday morning pounding home the central message of his debate performance: That he is all about job creation.  

“Through his policies including tax reform, expanding trade and cracking down on China, he’ll create over 12 million new jobs and get our country back on track,” the Romney campaign said in its statement about the ad.  

Romney came to the Denver debate stage prepared, perhaps even a bit over-prepared, with talking points about his view of Mr. Obama’s plan for the nation: four more years of “trickle-down government,” marked by higher taxes that would hit not just the wealthy, but also the small businesses that are the engine of economic growth.

During the debate, Romney tore through reams of statistics about job-creation, the No. 1 concern of voters amid 43 straight months of unemployment over 8 percent.

“Fifty-four percent of America's workers work in businesses that are taxed not at the corporate tax rate but at the individual tax rate. And if we lower that rate, they will be able to hire more people,” Romney said, looking ever the polished businessman he was for 25 years.

“For me, this is about jobs,” he concluded.

Obama responded by accusing Romney of saying “never mind” to his tax plan, and threatening to harm the middle class by eliminating tax deductions and programs that make sure “everybody’s getting a fair shot.”  

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