By By Lucia Mutikani

WASHINGTON, Oct 4 (Reuters) - Republican Mitt Romney, seeking to counter his image as a billionaire friend of finance, stressed he wanted regulation of banks but blasted President Barack Obama for pursuing excessive reforms that he said were stifling the economy.

Speaking during the first presidential debate on Wednesday, Romney reiterated his pledge to repeal the Dodd-Frank bill, a 2010 law that overhauls the oversight of U.S. finance in response to the worst banking crisis since the Great Depression.

"Regulation is essential. You can't have a free market work without regulation," said Romney, a former Massachusetts governor.

"At the same time, regulation can become excessive, it can become out of date. And what's happened with some of the legislation that's been passed under President Obama's term is you've seen some of the regulation become excessive and it has hurt the economy."

Romney, who made a fortune as a private equity executive buying and selling companies, has pledged to repeal Dodd-Frank. But during Wednesday's debate, he did not offer any details on his idea of a replacement law.

"We are not going to get rid of all regulation," he said. "You have to have regulation and there are some parts of Dodd-Frank that make all the sense in the world. You have to have transparency, leverage limits."

Romney saved some of his toughest criticism for parts of the Dodd-Frank law that critics say make the biggest U.S. banks effectively "too big to fail."

"We have to have regulation on Wall Street, but I would not designate five banks as too big to fail. This is the biggest kiss that's being given to New York banks I have ever seen," said Romney.

"We need to get rid of that provision because it is killing regional and small banks," he said, adding that 122 community banks had closed since the law was passed two years ago.

At least three U.S. states are challenging the constitutionality of the Dodd-Frank law.

Obama hit back at Romney's criticisms.

"The reason we have been in such an enormous economic crisis was prompted by reckless behavior across the board," Obama said.

"The question is does anybody out there think that the big problem we had is that there was too much oversight and regulation of Wall Street? Because if you do, then Governor Romney is your candidate. But that's not what I believe."

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  • Wealthy Benefit Most From Tax Cuts

    Paul Ryan's most recent budget proposal would save those making between $20,000 and $30,000 just $246 in taxes, compared to savings of $265,011 for those who make over $1 million, according to analysis from the <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/2012/04/02/gIQAjn0grS_graphic.html" target="_hplink">Center on Budget and Policy Priorities</a>.

  • Health Care Cuts

    The "Path to Prosperity" would cut $2.4 trillion from Medicaid and other health care programs for people with low or moderate incomes, according to analysis from the <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/2012/04/02/gIQAjn0grS_graphic.html" target="_hplink">Center on Budget and Policy Priorities</a>.

  • Fewer People Covered By Medicaid

    Under Ryan's "Path to Prosperity" as many as 44 million fewer people would be covered under Medicaid, <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7417870n" target="_hplink">according to CBS News</a>.

  • Reduced Health Care For Retirees

    Ryan would raise the age of Medicare eligibility from 65 to 67. If the Affordable Care Act was repealed, something Romney has pledged, that means many 65- and 66-year-olds would be left uninsured, the <a href="http://mediamatters.org/research/2012/08/11/seven-things-the-media-needs-to-know-about-paul/189277" target="_hplink">CBPP reports</a>.

  • Seniors Would Pay More For Health Coverage

    Under Ryan's "Path to Prosperity," senior citizens would have to pay as much as 68 percent of their health care coverage, up from 25 percent today, <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7417870n" target="_hplink">CBS News reports.</a>

  • Cuts To Food Stamp Programs

    Ryan's proposed "Path to Prosperity" includes $134 billion in cuts to SNAP, according to analysis from the <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/2012/04/02/gIQAjn0grS_graphic.html" target="_hplink">Center on Budget and Policy Priorities</a>.

  • Lower Tax Credit For Single Moms

    A single mother of two working full time at the minimum wage would have her Child Tax Credit cut by more than $1,500, assuming she made $14,500 a year, according to the <a href="http://mediamatters.org/research/2012/08/11/seven-things-the-media-needs-to-know-about-paul/189277" target="_hplink">Center on Budget and Policy Priorities</a>.

  • Less Money For Education

    Compared to the most recent White House budget proposal, Ryan's budget spends 33 percent less on education, training, employment and social services, <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/wp/2012/08/12/what-paul-ryans-budget-actually-cuts-and-by-how-much/" target="_hplink">the <em>Washington Post</em> reports</a>.

  • Poor Weather Forecasts

    Ryan's proposed cuts to environment and natural resource programs could result in weather forecasts being only half as accurate, according to Third Way's budget expert, David Kendall. "For many people planning a weekend outdoors, they may have to wait until Thursday for a forecast as accurate as one they now get on Monday," <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/wp/2012/08/12/what-paul-ryans-budget-actually-cuts-and-by-how-much/" target="_hplink">he's quoted as saying in the <em>Washington Post</em></a>.

  • No Raises For Government Workers

    The current government worker pay freeze would be extended under the "Path to Prosperity," meaning public-sector employees wouldn't get a raise until at least 2015, <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/federal-eye/post/paul-ryans-budget-plan-hits-federal-workers/2012/08/11/8953b832-e3a3-11e1-98e7-89d659f9c106_blog.html" target="_hplink">the <em>Washington Post</em> reports</a>.