Hello everyone! The Wednesday presidential debate between President Barack Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney will be the first time both men have met on stage to debate the issues affecting our country. The debate will focus on domestic policy, with the next debates on the 16th and 22nd concentrating on other domestic and foreign policies. The vice presidential Debate between VP Joseph Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) will occur on October 11th.
Going into the debates, Mitt Romney is on the backfoot after several weeks of bad polls following the Democratic National Convention and a number of gaffes on his part. Numerous efforts at rebooting the campaign have stalled after some problem or another has killed its messaging operation and allowed the national media to question once again whether Romney's candidacy is falling apart. Unfortunately, many Republicans are felling the same way and if Romney does not pull off a stellar performance tonight he may find the party pulling its funds and support from his campaign for Congressional candidates around the country to deny President Obama control over the legislature.
Obama is facing increased scrutiny over the administration's handling of embassy security in Libya following the terrorist attack that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others, as well as continued controvery over his Afghanistan androne policy, but will likely get a repreive today given tonight's domestic policy focus. All he needs to do is stay on point and respond as serenely as possible to Romney's provocations to make the debate a wash, a stalemate that favors his current advantageous position in the final weeks of the election.
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Update: 9:30PM I've been so busy blogging that I can't say that I saw any visual mistakes that might have cost either candidate the race. Substance-wise it seems like the President has Romney caught in a vice driven by the Republican party's own extreme elements. If people chose their candidate objectively, it seems like President Obama comes out the clear winner. I guess the next few days polling will show if this impression is right, or whether voters were put to sleep by the heavy policy discussion and number crunching.
9:29PM Closing statements, mainly boilerplate.
9:27PM Implies that Romney lacks what it means to be a leader because he is unwilling to describe any of his plans or say no to any part of his party.
9:26PM Obama: Romney's vision isn't going to happen if he pisses Democrats off by repealing Obamacare on Day 1. I'll be open to ideas from anyone.
9:24PM Lehrer: what would you do to resolve partisan gridlock on the Hill? Romney: I know how to work across the aisle from my time in Massachussets, you simply need to talk with people.
9:22PM Romney: "I don't have any plan to cut education funding." Then what the heck will you cut?!?!
9:20PM And now President Obama goes on a long riff about his administration's good work reforming education. This debate has been full of subjects that the President and Democrats in general have an edge on.
9:16PM Romney paraphrase: "The role of the federal government is to protect the rights enshrined in the Constitution and Bill of Rights."
9:15PM And the simple fact is that states are in such poor financial shape right now that they can't make many of the reforms needed e.g. they've fired so many teachers that its hard to reform education.
9:13PM Obama paraphrase: "I believe that the federal government has the capacity to create opportunity and the frameworks needed to succeed." Cites bills sponsored by the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln.
9:12 PM Segment 4: The Role of Government
9:11PM Romney retaliates by saying that he is simply laying out values and principles that future policies should follow...which is nice, but I thought he was the detail-oriented candidate?
9:10PM "Is Romney keeping his plans secret because they're too good?" Ouch.
9:09PM Obama notes that Romney's plan does not have any component that guarantees protection against abuse of those with preexisting conditions.
9:06PM Ahh, Romney brings up the use of an unelected board in Obamacare to determine healthcare provision. At least he didn't say "death panels."
9:05PM While it is true that healthcare premiums have grown over the last two years, its the slowest rate of growth in 50 years. We are bending the curve down now.
9:03PM Romney accuses Obama of not pursuing this bill in a bipartisan, and now Obama goes in for the kill. Obamacare was a conservative idea! We used the same advisers and they say that Obamacare is the same as Romneycare. Romney is not winning on this.
9:01PM Obama seems to be on fire; drawing a chuckle from the crowd despite Lehrer and others telling them not to react. Says that he based Obamacare on Romney's own Massachussets plan, that big Albatross hanging from Romney's neck.
8:59PM ...and sets Obama up for listing all of the aspects of Obamacare that poll well.
8:58PM Now Romney accuses Obama of taking his eye off the ball, the weak economy, and focusing on healthcare.
8:57PM Romney: Obamacare is expensive. "Expensive things hurt families." Can't get much simpler than that.
8:55PM Now Romney is talking about how regulations have harmed the economy, going waaay too far into the weeds on how mortgages are issued.
8:54PM "Does anyone out there think that the problem we had was too much regulation and oversight of Wall Street?" I don't think Romney is going to win many converts defending the banking industry.
8:51PM Now the debate touches upon regulation. Romney says that Dodd-Frank overburdens small banks. Now Obama goes off on how reckless bank behavior helped cause the recession; says that his administration has increased regulations on the industry that it hasn't seen since the 1930's.
8:50PM I don't see how Romney is winning on this issue.
8:49PM Obama: Ever study has shown that Medicare has lower administrative costs than private insurers, which also need to charge more to earn a profit. Where does the money come from? Romney is putting seniors at risk.
8:47PM Lehrer: Do you support the voucher program Romney? Romney says that the young could pick a public or private plan. Entitlements ought to be tempered with means-testing too.
8:46PM Argues that Obamacare cuts costs for seniors by $600 years, that eliminating Obamacare would increase costs all for the benefit of insurers.
8:44PM Romney notes that he will save Medicare and Social Security for the young too - a vague proposal that Obama runs with to accuse Romney of trying to voucherize the program, which will likely not keep up with inflation. Cites studies saying that providers would thus pick and choose their customers, causing the system to eventually collapsed.
8:43PM Romney notes that neither he nor the President plan on cutting benefits for those who will retire soon. Accuses Obama though of harming Medicare beneficiaries because the $700 billion in cuts will force many healthcare providers from taking Medicare patients.
8:41PM On discussing Medicare and Social Security, talks about the experience of his grandmother. Says that we saved $700 billion from Medicare by stopping over-payments to providers, lowering costs for customers too.
8:40PM Section 3: Entitlements - oh, what a landmine filled field this is.
8:38PM Ahh, Romney concedes that he will likely off tax benefits for oil companies. But accuses Obama of wasting $90 billion on green energy development.
8:36PM Basically argues that you cannot balance the deficit solely by tax cuts, without making harsh policy choices.
8:35PM President Obama responds by saying that Romney's plan would aid oil companies who are raking in the profits, or to those who own private jets. "If you can afford your own jet, you can pay full freight for it."
8:32PM There is some dispute over how Romney's unbalanced plan meshes with the Simpson-Bowles Commission's recommendations, which are more balanced. Romney says that he has his own plan, but that President Obama should've followed Simpson-Bowles.
8:31PM President Obama uses Romney's agreement during the Republican debate that he wouldn't raise $1 of taxes for $10 of cuts to say that Romney's plans are unbalanced.
8:28PM Obama addresses Romney's attack that he doubled the annual deficit by noting that it grew as the result of Bush's wars and tax cuts and unfunded spending programs.
8:27PM Romney's test for evaluating programs: "Is this program so critical that it is worth borrowing money from China for it?" Examples: PBS and Obamacare.
8:26PMRomney lucks out and gets the first word on how he would deal with the deficit. Says its a moral issue, which could be addressed through raising taxes, increasing spending, or growing the economy.
8:25PM Romney's going to have the last word on this argument if its going to kill him.
8:23PM Now President Obama explicitly connects Romney's plans with President George W. Bush's. We'll see how well that connection sticks.
8:21PM As moderator Lehrer notes, this first section is going way over time.
8:20PM President Obama makes a Donald Trump joke, saying that under Romney's tax plan Trump would count as a small business.
8:18PM Obama attacks back, saying that Romney is suddenly changing his position on his tax/spending plan five weeks before the election after standing by his irresponsible plan for months now. Brings up Bill Clinton's "arithmetic" line from the DNC.
8:17PM Accuses Obama of lying repeatedly and hoping it will become truth, which is ironic coming from him.
8:16PM Oh, Romney's getting a tiff with Lehrer. He isn't letting these attacks on his spending/tax plan go away without being challenged.
8:15PM Obama notes how Romney's promises do not add up to resolving the deficit, especially when you throw in $2 trillion in higher defense spending. Cites third-party studies who find that Romney's plan would increase taxes on middle-class families by $2,000.
8:14PM Romney vows he will not decrease taxes on the wealthy, not pass a tax cut that will increase the deficit.
8:11PM Romney discusses his tax policies and other efforts to fix the economy. President Obama seems to be fighting back a smile - does he think he has this thing in the bag?
8:09PM Lehrer asks Obama about "trickle down government" i.e. on the role of government in helping build the economy. President Obama refuses to wade into such a philosophical territory discusses his policies again.
8:07PM Romney lays out a 5 point plan on rebuilding the economy, three of which are combating international competitors who cheat, reforming education, small-business focus. We don't need "trickle down government."
8:07PM Shared laughs as Romney congratulates Obama on his anniversary, "The most romantic place you could be was here with me!"
8:04PM President Obama paraphrased: "We've seen 5 million jobs created in the last four years, particularly in the auto industry and slowly the housing industry. Create jobs through education and training, developing new energy sources, and through tax incentives." Equates Romney's policy with that of former President George W. Bush.
8:04PM Segment 1: The Economy, subject jobs: How would the two of you differ on creating jobs?
8:03PM (note, this is all US central time) President Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney enter. The anticipation has been building for weeks. I'm glad I'm not them or I'd be freaking out.
7:49PM Moderator Jim Lehrer takes the stage. He's about as experienced as moderators come, but I wonder how the group as a whole will fare in the post-debate analyses?
7:40PM Fahrenkopf is very against cell phones and clapping and cheering tonight. Guess we won't be having a reenactment of the Republican Primary Debates.
7:37 PM Co-Chair Frank Fahrenkopf speaks about how they've divided tonights debate into 6 sections in order to hopefully generate more substantive discussion. We'll see how far that goes given how the candidates only have 15 minutes to get into the topics.
7:34PM Executive Director of the Commission on Presidential Debates Janet Brown is speaking in a pre-debate program. She mentions that the debates are the result of two years of planning. Really? I don't think it ought to take two years to prepare a debate.
5:01PM Columnist Roger Simon at Politico has a good point about the debates: debates can show that a candidate has command of the issues, can think fast on their feet, and can deal with pressure. They can't fix messaging problems or show that a candidate is a caring person, especially when they are in a disadvantageous position going into them. Guess which problems Romney has?
4:57PM Seems like Mr. Romney is bleeding fundraising support in New York already. He's raising millions less than President Obama, yet somehow Republican House candidates are beating their Democratic counterparts by a mile. Tonight will be crucial.