As the election trail gets fully underway in the US, Romney and Obama faced off for the first time last night in a televised debate that centred on taxes, the national deficit and healthcare. It was Romney though who emerged on top.

Gaffe-prone Mitt came across as assured, confident and in command whereas the commander-in-chief Obama came across as hesitant and a far cry from the orator he is known as.

However, while Romney has generally been decreed as the winner, his fact-checking skills and attention to detail came under scrutiny.

“In the end, this isn’t, or shouldn’t be about theatre criticism, it should be about substance,” said New York Times columnist and Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman, adding that: “much of what Romney said was either outright false or so misleading as to be the moral equivalent of a lie”.

BBC North America editor Mark Mardell said of the encounter: “Mitt Romney was the clear winner. He had obviously practised so hard and so long that he was nearly hoarse.

“He looked Obama in the eyes as he interrupted with animation, overriding the moderator, insisting on a comeback. He didn’t seem rude. He did seem in command and to be enjoying the scrap. President Obama on the other hand looked as though he’d much rather be out celebrating his wedding anniversary with his wife. He started out looking nervous, swallowing hard, not the confident performer we are used to seeing.”

American goes to the polls on November 6 with Obama looking to avoid being a one-term president, and the Republicans looking to take back control of the White House after John McCain lost to Obama in 2008.

Photo: Getty.