President Barack Obama and his challenger, Gov. Mitt Romney (R-Mass.), began the series of presidential debates on Tuesday night with the topic of domestic issues. Questions from proctor Jim Lehrer of PBS NewsHour ranged from the economy to the federal debt to health care and the role of government.

Mitt Romney came out swinging from the beginning. Critical, well-prepped and relentless, the governor of Massachusetts has been dubbed the winner.

Commentators and analysts like to talk about the mannerisms of the candidates when determining who won the debate. President Obama is being criticized for starting out with a defensive and condescending tone, which, according to CNN commentators, dissolved about halfway through. Obama seemed rusty, according to some, which makes sense because he has not debated since 2008. Romney, on the other hand, came off with confidence and arguments critiquing the Obama administration.

Now, for many of us in college right now, 2012 marks the first time we can actually vote in a presidential election. Voting for the right candidate is a daunting task to begin with, but after tonight, the choice may be even more difficult. Any type of political debate should rouse skepticism from both sides. The chatter on social media sites started before the debate began and will surely continue throughout the night—adding even more things for voters to synthesize and consider. However, it’s hard to know exactly what types of questions to ask, especially when candidates reference Dodd-Frank and Simpson and Bowles. It’s okay, I had to Google a couple things, too. So, here is a compilation of the highlights from tonight that includes a breakdown of the questions and a sum of the candidates’ viewpoints.

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President Obama said his plan for creating jobs lies in hiring 100,000 math and science teachers, lowering college tuition and providing tax breaks for companies investing in the United States. One of his main goals in the next term includes implementing the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare. In terms of eliminating the partisan deadlocks in Congress, President Obama relied on his record, stating that it was bipartisanship that ended the Iraq War and wrote the healthcare law. He also noted that he implemented restrictions on Wall Street in order to regulate the bank systems.

Gov. Romney agreed with President Obama on the need for education reform but also said he wants to increase job training programs to “get dollars back to states.” Romney also discussed his plan to get America entirely energy independent from foreign countries. He used the failures of President Obama to highlight what he sees as the solution to many of the government’s spending problems: bringing decisions back to individuals. Romney also argued for smaller government interference and repealing the law.

President Obama and Governor Romney agree on fundamental issues such such as education reform and lowering the deficit, but they differ in the ways they aim to accomplish these things. Romney argues in favor of the private sector and allowing businesses and individuals to dictate choices. Obama argues for bigger government to regulate these companies in order to make things more affordable for the middle class.

Debates are complicated. Jargon is meant to confuse you, and questions will go unanswered. However, knowing a little about each candidate is better than going in on Election Day blind.

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