No two words were mentioned more often during the first 15 minutes of the debate than “middle class,” with both President Obama and Mitt Romney positioning themselves as the better advocate for average Americans. And Romney even called the decline in middle class income a tax.

“Middle income Americans have seen their income come down by $4,300. This is a tax in and of itself. I will call it the economy tax,” Romney said.

The two candidates jousted early and often over taxes, with Romney repeatedly saying that his plan does not call for a $5 trillion tax cut.

Obama, meanwhile, defended his record on taxes. 

“We cut taxes for middle class families by about 3,600 dollars,” Obama noted.

“We do best when the middle class is doing well,” the president added.