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On Economy, Romney Blurs Contrast -

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Apparently Mitt Romney likes government regulation, loves Medicare the way it is, agrees fairly regularly with President Obama, and does not, in fact, want to cut taxes very much.

Those are gross simplifications of Romney’s economic platform, and ones very much at odds with the antitax, antiregulation, pro-entitlement-reform campaign the former Massachusetts governor has waged for more than a year. But if you were tuning into the presidential race for the first time on Wednesday night, you’d be forgiven if you thought the simplifications were actually the crux of Romney’s plan for the country.

Romney did his best to give off that impression in the first debate of the general election, in Denver. He challenged Obama repeatedly on the incumbent’s claim that Romney wants to reduce taxes by $5 trillion: “I don’t have a tax cut, of the scale you’re talking about.”

He started nearly every answer to questions about his plan to reduce the future costs of government safety-net spending by stressing that they wouldn’t affect current Medicare recipients: “If you are around 60 years or older, you don’t need to listen any longer.”

And when asked by moderator Jim Lehrer if government regulations were burdening the economy, a staple of Romney’s campaign-trail diagnosis of why the recovery has been so weak, the challenger began his answer with a paean to the government hand in the marketplace: “Regulation is essential.”

In each case, Romney eventually laid out his proposals. He said his tax plan would reduce the burden on middle-class families by closing loopholes for the wealthy, which would lead to efficiency and job creation. His Medicare plan would curb cost growth in the future by injecting private competition (and benefit caps) into the program. He would repeal Dodd-Frank financial regulations that codify “too big to fail” on Wall Street, and replace them with … something.

Along the way, it was easy to lose count of the number of times Romney paused to emphasize areas where he and President Obama agree.

Who the heck was debating Obama tonight and what has he done with Mitt Romney?

It's like Mitt was on Adderall. And Obama wasn't. I call for post-debate drug testing.

That would be fun! Can't wait to see the town hall format...