SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) — Californians watched closely Wednesday evening as President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney sparred aggressively in their first campaign debate over taxes, deficits and strong steps needed to create jobs in a sputtering national economy. “The status quo is not going to cut it,” declared the challenger.
Obama in turn accused his rival of seeking to “double down” on economic policies that actually led to the devastating national downturn four years ago – and of evasiveness on details for Romney proposals on tax changes, health care, Wall Street regulation and more.
Both men made frequent references to the weak economy and high national unemployment, by far the dominant issue in the race for the White House. But debate watchers in California split on who they trust more on the economy, a significant moral victory for Romney.
Even more importantly — particularly in what is considered a ‘Blue’ state, where not surprisingly significantly more Democrats watched the debate than Republicans — it was striking that 48% thought Romney was the clear winner.
That’s according to a KPIX-TV CBS 5 poll taken right after the debate, which found only 34% of Golden State debate watchers actually believed Obama won.
Even in the San Francisco Bay Area, debate watchers saw Romney as a narrow winner, according to the poll which was conducted for CBS 5 by the firm SurveyUSA.
Debate watchers in Greater Los Angeles, the Central Valley and the Inland Empire all scored it for Romney, the poll data showed.
In fact, African Americans were the only demographic group in California to see Obama as a winner — and only narrowly, the CBS 5 poll found.
Whites, Hispanics and Asians all viewed Romney as the clear winner, according to the poll results.
Among other demographic breakdowns, men by 24 points and middle-income viewers by 27 points saw Romney as the clear winner.
Only younger Californians, those age 18 to 34, saw the debate as a draw. Viewers age 35 and over all said Romney won.
Among partisans, the poll found reaction was predictable — with Republicans claiming Romney won by a 78% to 13% margin, and Democrats contending by a 55% to 25% spread that Obama was the victor.
“This debate left no doubt: the President and the Democratic Party will strengthen the middle class, help our entrepreneurs and small businesses grow, create good-paying jobs in America, and restore fairness and opportunity for all Americans,” reacted U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco.
Of course, California Republican Party chairman Tom Del Beccaro saw it differently: “This was a performance for the ages, and it proved decisively that Mitt Romney is not only a capable communicator, but a commanding leader with the right vision for America.”
Partisans aside however, the CBS 5 poll found Independents — the most critical, coveted and arguably most dispassionate group of debate watchers — said by 34 points that Romney was the convincing winner.
Even more interesting was that Moderates, who typically vote 2:1 in favor of Obama, viewed Romney as the winner by 15 points.
Other notable observations from the CBS 5 poll:
–The debate watchers, who again were disproportionately Democrats, maintained Obama was not forceful enough and believed Romney was too forceful.
— Narrowly, California viewers concluded Romney had the best one liner of the first debate.
The poll surveyed 869 debate watchers in California and had a margin of error of 3.4%.
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