By Carol Cain CBS62

With the economy clearly driving the 2012 race for the White House Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama took turns at bat to talk up their plans to help create jobs as CBS Local Presidential Forum kicked off.

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The two candidates are being asked 10 questions over 10 days on vital issues to help voters learn more about the men and their policies.

“President Obama’s policies are creating uncertainty, holding back the economy, and need to be reversed,” Romney said in the CBS’ exclusive forum. “My plan will get America back to work by delivering a real economic recovery. By reforming our tax code and lowering rates, businesses and entrepreneurs will be able to make long-term hiring and expansion decisions.”

Romney also dominated last week’s first televised presidential debate – watched by a whopping 67 million Americans – with his discussion of the economy. Romney is leading Obama in some polls after the debate which show the battle has become a horse race on the way to the mission to become the 45th president of the United States.

Before Obama took office, he explained the economy was losing almost 800,000 jobs a month, and the auto industry on the brink.

In talking up his leadership, Obama has said there has been 30 consecutive months of job growth and nearly 5.1 million new private sector jobs since he took over.

And he mentioned the auto industry has created 425,000 jobs since GM and Chrysler re-tooled.

Vestiges of the economy also were found in the second question in the CBS Local Presidential Forum on their view of the role of the federal government.

Today: Government’s Role

With the economy still rebounding and an aging population with growing need for programs like Medicare and Social Security, the question posed to Obama and Romney: what do you think the role of the federal government should be?

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The two men hold vastly different positions. Obama outlined his plan for the nation that creates an economy that invests in things like education, research, and clean energy. And he has put forward a plan to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion in a balanced way by cutting wasteful spending and asking the wealthiest to pay their fair share.

Romney has gained attention and traction as he talked about the need for entitlement reform and the huge costs of our federal programs.

“My experience has taught me that government works best when it creates the space for individuals and families to pursue success and achieve great things,” Romney answered in the CBS forum. “Instead of creating a web of dependency, I will pursue policies that grow our economy and lift Americans out of poverty. My plan for a stronger middle class will deliver the economic recovery we’ve all been waiting for and the jobs that millions of Americans still need,” Romney added.

“Voters complain about the size of the federal government, but there is strong support for continued spending on Social Security and Medicare,” said Darrell West, vice president at the Brookings Institution.

The recession hurt a lot of people and elevated the role of government support programs. “This has made a number of voters more sympathetic to candidate arguments based on fairness,” West said.

A recent poll from Pew Research also showed men and women voters view this question differently.

“On the question of whether you want a smaller government with fewer services, or a bigger government with more services, women and men are in a very different place,” says Carroll Doherty of the Pew Research Center, adding women are far more supportive of the bigger/more equation. “And that,” he says, “is the fundamental question of this election.”

Among registered voters who prefer a larger government, 83 percent support Obama, while only 12 percent prefer Romney, Pew found. And it found that 65 percent of respondents who say they desire a smaller government intend to vote for Romney, compared with 29 percent who give the nod to Obama.

Come back tomorrow when Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama answer:

Q: What is your urban agenda? Name a few struggling cities and define how your agenda would specifically affect them.

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(Carol Cain is an Emmy winning journalist who has covered politics and business over 20 years. She is Senior Producer/Host of CBS62’s “Michigan Matters” and writes a column on politics and business for Detroit Free Press. She can be reached at