At the end of the deepest recession in more than 80 years, the two men running for president talked about getting the country "going."
The almost 100-minute televised exchange Tuesday between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama covered familiar topics -- taxes and spending -- while also veering into such issues as immigration, contraception and Libya.
But an examination of a computer-generated "word cloud" of the debate shows both candidates used the word "going" more than any other in the first 80 minutes of the exchange.
That suggests both campaigns are locked in on prospects for the future, a key argument between the Democrat and the Republican in the closing weeks of the race.
The Kansas City Star analyzed a transcript of the debate and removed the questions and comments from the moderator, Candy Crowley, leaving only the words of the two candidates. A computer program then produced the word cloud, a device used increasingly by politicians to determine the focus of a campaign: the bigger the word, the more times it was used.
"Word clouds display the narrative and trajectory of a campaign's emphasis and direction," said Republican consultant Jeff Roe of Kansas City, who uses word clouds in his own research. "They are extremely helpful in cutting through the clutter to visualize the strategy of a campaign."
The debate transcript, roughly 12,000 words, ended following the exchange over the terror attack in Benghazi.
The word cloud revealed other commonly used words and phrases by both candidates. Obama referred repeatedly to "governor" Romney, leading to its presence in the cloud, as well as Romney's name. "People" and "make" also were prominent.
Just smaller than the biggest words, however, are the issues both sides sought to highlight in the pair's last debate on domestic issues before Election Day.
"Women" was used repeatedly, the cloud showed, which probably should be no surprise. Women are believed to make up the majority of undecided voters in key battleground states, where the election will be won or lost.
"Jobs" and "energy" also played a large role in the debate, perhaps to Romney's advantage. Relatively high unemployment and high gasoline prices are two issues the Obama campaign has struggled with throughout the year.
"Gas" and "coal" also are in the cloud. Coal mining, and restrictions on it, remains an issue in such states as West Virginia and Kentucky.
Other concerns made the word cloud, although they were mentioned less often than one might have expected. "Health" is hard to find, even though health care reform is a central issue for both parties.
"Cuts" made the cloud, but there was less talk about reducing federal spending than there was about reducing or reforming the tax burden -- hence "tax" and "taxes" were bigger in the word cloud.
Words missing from the cloud? "Banks," "abortion," "pollution" and "labor unions."
The push for middle class votes also is evident in the debates' words. "Kids" and "families" were part of the discussion, not surprising for an exchange that opened with a question about employment for college graduates.
But a first look at the cloud did not suggest overwhelming interest in any one topic that will immediately help either candidate. Romney wants the campaign to be about the future, of course, but Obama also has made the next four years a central theme in recent weeks.
There were surprises. "Bush" made the cloud because someone asked a question about the former president. "Education" only came up sparingly.
And at the top, about the 12:00 position. See the word?
The candidates weren't talking about sweets.