Romney has refused so far to disclose many of the details to support his assertion that his proposal would not lead to a tax cut. His ad was an attempt to parry a report by the Tax Policy Center that Obama has frequently tried used to political advantage, as he did again during the day.
In a new ad by the president's campaign, Romney is quoted as saying that a $5 trillion tax cut "is not my plan." The ad then cites a study by the Tax Policy Center as saying it is, and asks why the Republican challenger "won't level with us about his tax plan which gives the wealthy huge new tax breaks.
"Because if we can't trust him here" — a photo of the debate stage appears — "How could we ever trust him here," the narrator says as a photo of the Oval Office fills the screen.
The two men debate twice more this month, Oct. 16 in Hempstead, N.Y. and Oct. 22 in Boca Raton, Fla.
Before they do, Vice President Joe Biden and Romney's running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, will share a stage in Danville, Ky. in one week's time.
Biden plunged into the tax debate during the day, saying the administration does indeed want to increase the taxes paid by the wealthy by $1 trillion.
"We want to let that trillion-dollar tax cut expire so the middle class doesn't have to bear the burden of all that money going to the super wealthy," he said while campaigning in Iowa. "That's not a tax raise, that's called fairness where I come from."
Republicans didn't see it that way, and seized on the comment as evidence the administration's policies would kill jobs.
Whatever the eventual outcome of the race, Romney seemed to have achieved his goal of a campaign reset. Democrats braced for tightening polls over the next several days in the states where the campaign will be won or lost.
The head of one Republican-aligned independent group said all such organizations should consider expanding into states that have effectively been written off. "If we didn't get a home run, we certainly got a triple" from Romney's showing in the debate, said American Future Fund's founder Nick Ryan, who sided with Rick Santorum during the primaries.
Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod acknowledged in a conference call with reporters that an adjustment in strategy would be needed in the debates to come. "Obviously moving forward we're going to take a hard look at this, and we're going to have to make some judgments as to where to draw the line in these debates and how to use our time," Axelrod said.
Romney frequently interrupted both Obama and moderator Jim Lehrer of the Public Broadcasting Service during the 90-minute debate, sometimes talking over one or both of them to argue that the president's policies hadn't restored the economy, or alternatively, that the president was making false accusations about Republican proposals.
While both men prepared extensively for their first head-to-head encounter, Romney had the advantage of having taken part in 19 debates with his Republican rivals over the course of many months. He seemed to employ many of the techniques that he honed then, insisting on speaking time he claimed he was entitled to, for example, generally without seeming belligerent.
The president's last prior debate was four years ago, when he was running against Sen. John McCain.
Associated Press writers Philip Elliott and Beth Fouhy in Washington, Julie Pace in Madison, Wis., and Matthew Daly in Council Bluffs, Iowa. contributed to this story. Espo reported from Washington.
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