THE DEBATE ENDS: The candidates shake hands and their families greet them on stage.
The "47 percent" isn't mentioned by Obama nor is Bain Capital or Romney's tax returns. The economy, jobs and health care comprised the majority of the evening's discussion.
On a factual level, not much new was revealed, but the nation got a substantial glimpse at Mitt Romney's debate style and poise in a evening in which he definitely held his own.
The coming days will reveal to what extent tonight's debate will give Romney a bump in the polls. The debate season is not over yet though -- tune in for AFP’s live report coverage of the two remaining presidential debates on Tuesday, October 16 and Monday, October 22.
02:28: GMT: OBAMA'S CLOSING STATEMENT: Obama states that much of what he has done in the last four years has been to help the American people succeed. Obama promises that he fights "every single day" on behalf of the American people and the middle class.
ROMNEY'S CLOSING STATEMENT: Romney says he's concerned about the country. "What kind of America do you want to have for yourself and your children," he asks. He says his and Obama's paths lead in very different directions. Obama will continue a middle class squeeze, he says. Romney then says he'll create 12 million new jobs and that Obama will add cuts to Medicare. Romney says he won't cut the American commitment to the military.
02:23 GMT: WITH THREE MINUTES LEFT IN THE DEBATE Lehrer says either the candidates have been too long winded or he's done a poor job moderating.
He asks the candidates what they would do about partisan gridlock.
Romney cites his time as governor of Massachusetts, which he governed from 2003 to 2007. It's a state which is highly Democrat.
Obama says his philosophy is that he will take advice from anyone, as long as they're looking out for the middle class. He says occasionally you've got to say no to folks in both parties. Obama says Romney has not shown a willingness to say no to the most extreme parts of his party.
02:14 GMT: Obama talks about great schools as he defends his idea of government.
Romney says the role of government is to protect the principles of the Constitution. He wants to maintain the strength of the military, and maintain a commitment to freedom of religion. As with many of his responses throughout the night, Romney has a list-like response prepared, in which he counts various points off, beginning with point one, moving on to point to etc.
Lehrer asks if the federal government has a role in education in the country.
Romeny says he wants students to be able to go to the school of their choice.
Obama brings up community colleges and making college affordable. He cites his record on keeping student loan rates low. Obama hints that Romney may not understand that many students' college is not paid for by their parents.
02:13 GMT: LEHRER BRINGS UP THE NEXT SECTION ON THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT "Do you believe ... there is a fundamental difference between how you view the mission of the federal government?"
02:03 GMT: Obama defends the board which Romney referred to.
"When Obamacare is fully implemented, we're going to be in a position to show that costs are going down," Obama says.
Obama says Romney hasn't described what he would replace ACA with, other than the fact that he would leave it to the states. This doesn't help people with pre-existing conditions, Obama says.
Romney says pre-existing conditions are covered in his plan. Romney is back criticizing the board under ACA, saying that a board will mandate the kind of coverage a person can have.
"Thie private market and individual responsibility always work best," Romney says.
Obama says Romeny's plan doesn't cover pre-existing conditions but only re-established the status quo on the issue that already exists under the law.
02:00 GMT: Obama defends his plan vigorously, noting how Obamacare creates a system that creates lower group rates, among other defences he has used for the program in the past.
01:55 GMT: LEHRER MOVES THE DEBATE ON TO HEALTH CARE. He asks Romney why he would like the Affordable Care Act appealed.
Romney cites people he's met across America. He says the cost of health care is prohibitive. Romney says ACA will cost $2,500 a year more. He also says that money is cut from Medicare to pay for it, and that it puts in place a board that will tell people about what sort of treatment they can have. He also says ACA makes businesses less likely to hire people.
"The best thing to do for health care is to do what we did in my state" Romney says, stating it's a matter that should be up to the states.
01:50 GMT: "When you move to vouchers, you are putting seniors at the mercy of the insurance companies," Obama says.
Both candidates say they can agree that they offer different plans on the topic.
Lehrer asks each candidate about their view on the level of federal regulation on the economy. Regulation is essential, Romney says, attempting to launch into Dodd-Frank, a Wall Street reform act.
Obama says Romney would like to repeal Dodd-Frank, appealing to the people of America as to whether they think there was too much regulation on Wall Street.
01:45 GMT: "I don't think vouchers are the right way to go" Obama says, referring to Romney's plan for Medicare.
Obama references Obamacare directly. "Ironically I have become fond of this term, Obamacare" he says.
Lehrer asks Romney if he supports vouchers.
Romeny says he believes in no change for current retirees. We have to have the benefits high for people of low income, and have fewer benefits for those of higher income, Romney says.
01:41 GMT: Obama gets personal, talking about his grandmother's experiences. He says the key to dealing with Medicare is lowering health care costs.
Our seniors depend on these programs, Romney says. Romney says Medicare costs cannot be cut. Romney tells young people he's got a plan to make sure Medicare and Social Security are there for them "without any question."
01:39 GMT: LEHRER BEGINS SEGMENT THREE. He asks Obama if he sees a difference between himself and Romney on Social Security.
Obama says Social Security is strong, and that he also wants to talk about Medicare.
01:36 GMT: The debate is officially one-third over. In the first segment, neither candidate has made any major gaffes or outstanding zings or wins against their opponent.
01:27 GMT: Romney brings up China, says he'll send programs to the state level and make cutbacks. He cites Obama's spending during the past four years.
Obama cites the bloated deficit as something he inherited due to two wars paid for on credit and other spending from the past administration.
Lehrer asks Romney about the Simpson-Bowls plan. Romney says he has his own plan. Romney goes back to the idea that raising taxes kills businesses, and that many Americans are employed by the nation's largest businesses.
01:26 GMT: Lehrer launches into the second segment in the six-segment debate. He asks each candidate how he will tackle the deficit.
01:21 GMT: The remaining 3 percent of businesses are where a large number of Americans are employed, Romney counters, while giving another personal example of an American he has met in his experience in politics.
Obama starts crunching the numbers, stating that Romney is attempting an impossible feat.
Romney repeats that he's not in favor of a $5 trillion tax cut. "That's not my plan,' he says, stating that his plan is not like anything that has been tried before.
01:19 GMT: Obama says 97 percent of businesses would not see their taxes go up under his plan. Obama says Romney's definition of small business includes large businesses.
The tax issue has become the first real sparring match of the debate.
01:15 GMT: Obama says Romney would burden the middle class with top-down economics while middle class families are burdened further.
Romney says everything that Obama has just said about his tax plan is inaccurate. He says he won't put in a tax cut that adds to the deficit. He also says he won't reduce the share paid by high-income individuals.
"I will not reduce the taxes paid by high-income Americans" Romney reiterates a second time.
01:08 GMT: Lehrer asks Obama to address Romney on trickle-down economics.
Obama says he agrees with Romney on energy, but believes in energy sources of the future such as wind. Obama says Romney's call for a $5 trillion tax cut among other expenses will not solve the economy's woes.
01:06 GMT: Romney then greets the audience and congratulates Obama on his anniversary. Romney shares personal stories of Americans he's met on the campaign trail who he says need a new economic path then outlines a five-step path to a better economy that includes energy independence and a balanced budget.
01:04 GMT: FIRST QUESTION is on how each candidate plans to create new jobs.
Obama makes the first response and begins by wishing his wife a happy anniversary. Then begins on an overview of the state of the economy.
01:01 GMT: Lehrer asks for a silence audience -- don't expect any boos or cheers.
Obama and Romney walk on stage, shake hands, greet the audience with a wave and take to their podiums.
01:01 GMT: Lehrer welcomes the audience to the first of the 2012 presidential debates.
00:58 GMT: Going into tonight's debate, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll has given Obama a lead among likely voters of 49-46 percent, consistent with a RealClearPolitics poll average showing Obama up by 3.5 percentage points. A National Public Radio poll today showed Obama leading 51-44 among likely voters nationwide and 50-44 in battleground states, while a Washington Post-ABC News poll gave Obama a larger 52-41 lead in swing states.
00:54 GMT: PROXY WARS: Each of the candidates has been prepping for tonight with a proxy debate partner tasked with impersonating the mannerisms and ideology of their opponent. Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio stood in for Obama during mock debates with Romney over the past month. Having played Obama, John Edwards, John Kerry, Joe Lieberman and Al Gore in previous mock debates, Portman is something of an expert Democrat. Democrat Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, who is a seasoned veteran of presidential debates having run for office in 2004, has been playing Romney for the Obama camp.
00:52 GMT: Ann Romeny is wearing a prim white skirt suit with pearls while Michelle Obama is wearing a purple jacket with a multi-colored blouse underneath.
00:49: Michelle Obama and Ann Romney greet each other in the audience with a polite embrace and kiss.
00:48 GMT: What does a presidential candidate do in the minutes leading up to his first ever presidential debate? Per photos from the wire stills, who were allowed into Romney's hold room, Romney and his sons were engaged in a pre-debate game of Jenga.
00:45 GMT: Apart from the debate, today is a landmark day for Obama as it's his 20th wedding anniversary to his wife Michelle.
"I told Barack, 'This, you know, attending a presidential debate on my 20th anniversary is probably the worst way for me to spend (it).' ... I get so nervous at these debates," she told CNN.
00:40 GMT: THE GUESSING GAME: Twenty minutes out from the debate, each candidate's performance remains a giant unknown. In a Gallup Poll released this morning, however, 57 percent of Americans said they think Obama will do a better job than Mitt Romney, while 33 percent believed the reverse -- that Romney will do better than Obama.
00:34 GMT: Both Obama and Romney have arrived at Ritchie Center, the venue for tonight's debate and home to the University of Denver's hockey team.
WELCOME TO AFP'S LIVE REPORT on the first presidential debate in the 2012 election cycle. Tonight's event is being held at Colorado's University of Denver, a 12,000-student campus nestled in the heart of one of the nine swing states that will likely tilt the election to one candidate or the other.
As President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney make their case to the American public, it’s in these swing states in particular that the candidates stand to gain or lose the most. Both are fighting for a small slice of undecided, independent voters.
The hour-and-a-half question-answer session, hosted by the former host of "PBS Newshour" Jim Lehrer, focuses on domestic policy with six 15-minute segments, the first three of which Lehrer has said will focus on the economy and the last three of which will focus on health care, the role of government and governing, respectively.
Recent weeks have seen Romney and Obama camps downplay their candidates' debate skills in an attempt to establish low expectations, should either flounder tonight.
Romney stands to gain the most from the evening; a successful debate might wrest his campaign from the perils of slipping poll numbers and recent gaffes, such as his now-infamous comment that it wasn't his job to worry about "47 percent" of the country that would never support him. Obama must veer from an overly explanative or sometimes smug style to keep a tight fist on the slight lead he has carved out.
Follow AFP's political correspondents on the ground in Denver on Twitter: Stephen Collinson @StCollinson and Ivan Couronne @Ivancouronne