Small businesses and the policies that most effectively serve their financial interests have been a pervasive theme of the presidential debate tonight in Denver.

President Obama and Mitt Romney battled for several minutes over which businesses should qualify for the benefits intended for small firms. (RICK WILKING/REUTERS)

“It’s small business that creates the jobs in America,” Romney said in the first few minutes. “And over the last four years, small- business people have decided that America may not be the place to open a new business, because new business startups are down to a 30-year low.”

The two later entered into a heated debate over which firms should qualify as small businesses, especially for tax purposes, extending well beyond the allotted amount of time to hash out their respective arguments on the subject. Romney pointed out that 54 percent of workers are employed by business owners that pay individual tax rates, not corporate rates. Consequently, he said, raising the top rates would deter the most successful business owners from hiring more workers.

The president shot back, insisting that the wealthiest business owners, even if their firms are small, aren’t the ones truly in need of tax relief.

“Under Governor Romney’s definition, there are a whole bunch of millionaires and billionaires who are small businesses,” Obama said. “Donald Trump is a small business. Now, I know Donald Trump doesn’t like to think of himself as small anything, but that’s how you define small businesses if you’re getting business income.”

Small businesses have continued to be front and center in the discussions on the impact of health care reform and deficit reduction.

For full coverage tonight, visit Post Politics, and check back in with On Small Business tomorrow morning for full analysis of the small business discussion from Wednesday night as well as reactions from business owners located in nine swing states.

Related: Obama establishes lead with small business voters