On regulatory issues, Romney attacked the Dodd-Frank law that overhauled regulation of the financial industry, but he said some regulations are needed and he would keep them. Obama scoffed at Romney's promise to repeal Wall Street reforms that he signed into law, saying, "Does anybody out there think that the big problem we had is that there was too much oversight and regulation of Wall Street? Because if you do, then Governor Romney is your candidate."
Near the end of the debate, Lehrer asked the two candidates how they might go about making Washington work more effectively. Romney said he would do what he had done working with a Democratic legislature in Massachusetts by sitting down with them and working out compromises.
Obama said that might be difficult if one of Romney's first actions is an effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which he said would anger Democrats in Congress. And he accused Romney of being hostage to the most conservative elements of the Republican Party.
"I've got to tell you, Gov. Romney, when it comes to his own party during the course of this campaign, has not displayed that willingness to say no to some of the more extreme parts of his party," he said.
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Staff writers David Nakamura and Philip Rucker contributed to this report.