Obama and Romney to meet in first debate

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President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will meet on stage for the first time Wednesday night to debate domestic and economic policy.

The first of three scheduled presidential debates is expected to focus primarily on the economy, although health care and the role of government will likely be discussed. It is unclear whether public or higher education will be discussed during the 90-minute debate.

Both candidates have identified a need to address the rising cost of college tuition but have put forth different strategies to do so.

Obama’s plan for higher education has centered on making college more affordable for middle class students by expanding Pell Grants, maintaining low interest rates on student loans and strengthening community colleges.

Romney’s higher education platform includes a call for simplifying the federal financial aid system, encouraging private sector participation and replacing regulation with competition.

Government professor Bruce Buchanan said this debate holds special implications for Romney because Obama is maintaining a narrow but consistent lead in most battleground states.

“I think the debate’s very important, especially for the person that’s behind, which happens to be Gov. Romney at the moment,” Buchanan said. “He’s got a tough assignment, because on the one hand he’s got to forcefully make his case in terms of policy while disagreeing with the president’s policy, but on the other hand not be perceived as disrespectful to the president.”

The debate, held at the University of Denver, is set to begin at 8 p.m. Wednesday and will be moderated by journalist Jim Lehrer. The following two presidential debates will take place Oct. 16 and Oct. 22.

Printed on Wednesday, October 3, 2012 as: Obama and Romney to face off in first debate