If you’ve got plans that will keep you away from your television screen at 9:00 PM EST on Wednesday, reschedule them.
After a long summer of attack ads and conventions, President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney will finally be going head to head for 90 minutes in the first presidential debate, held at the University of Denver in Colorado. This is only the first of three debates, with the next debates taking place on October 16 and 27, so this debate will not be the last word from any candidate. Nevertheless, the race is close enough that this debate is a chance for a major momentum shift in either candidate’s direction.
The schedule of the debate will be simple: the 90-minute debate will be divided into six 15-minute segments. The first three will focus on questions about the economy, while the last three will address questions about “health care, the role of government, and governing,” moderator Jim Lehrer said.
Some analysts have called this debate as polarizing as the famous 1858 debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas, and while that may be a bit of an exaggeration, it’s clear that things are going to get heated. The issues on the docket are some of the most important to Americans right now, so the stakes are high for both candidates. Expect to see much disagreement about tax plans and questions about whether Obama has successfully healed our country’s economic woes, and get ready to watch Romney try to attack the Affordable Care Act without mentioning Romneycare.
PolicyMic will be covering the presidential debate live. For live updates, bookmark and refresh this page.
10:32 PM EST
It's over, but it was over 80 minutes ago.
10:30 PM EST
Romney won the coin toss, and gets the last word in tonight's debate.
10:25 PM EST
Obama just got in one last zinger- "Mr. Romney's going to have a very busy first day if he's also going to be repealing Obamacare, which won't play too well with the Democrats while he's sitting down with them."
Obama picked a great way to finish the debate- I cheered when he mentioned repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell, rattled off on a list that also included the elimination of bin Laden. I think his fatal flaw tonight was allowing Romney to dictate the terms of the debate; it felt like Obama spent the night doing his best to fend off Romney's attacks, but it's impossible to win by playing defense.
10:24 PM EST
I'm sorry, Jim Lehrer, but if there were a three-minute solution to the "partisan gridlock" that's currently crippling Congress, it would be fixed already.
10:23 PM EST
Call me sentimental, but I'm a sucker for speeches about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Following that with the statement that "Mr. President, you're entitled to your own airplane, and your own house, but not your own facts" after Obama's speech about education, and calling him out for the $90 billion he put into green energy? Who are you, Mystery Dream Debator, and what did you do with Mitt Romney?
10:15 PM EST
Let's add "Great Schools" to the list of things Romney loves, along with Big Bird.
Also, his speech about the role of government is giving me whiplash. I love his going back to the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, but then his quoting of the "endowed by our creator" line made it seem that he would go down the path of the religious right, but then he spun it into religious freedom... etc.
10:14 PM EST
Obama is making a really important point right now. Yes, Romney's attacks on Dodd Frank and Obamacare have been heated and inspiring, but once he tears down everything Obama has built up, what will be there to replace it? Romney's strategy in tonight's debate speaks volumes to how he thinks voters feel about Obama right now- just as Obama ran as the anti-Bush, so too is Romney running as the anti-Obama. Public sentiment has changed a lot in the past four years, but it's fascinating that Romney thinks people are so opposed to Obama that he can simply criticize the President's policies and call it a day.
10:02 PM EST
Lehrer (in response to Romney trying to cut Obama off): "OK Governor, tell the President directly why you think what he said was wrong."
9:58 PM EST
If, like me, you're saddened by the hangdog expression on Obama's face, here's a soundtrack to your mood:
9:54 PM EST
Here's what's going on on the Twitterverse:
Check out #debates for more.
9:49 PM EST
I'm a fan of the "candidate looks straight into camera, directly addresses demographic group" technique, and so are the candidates, apparently. Romney just did it for the youth, and now Obama's doing it for people around 55 (who are about to go on Medicare and Social Security). Romney is promising us that we will actually see benefits from Medicare and Social Security, which I find hard to believe, but I find it even harder to believe that Romney is targeting my generation and Obama is targeting my parents'. Maybe he knows that everyone on campus seems to have a Yale Students for Obama t-shirt, and is trying to sway older voters away from Romney.
9:40 PM EST
I believe Obama may have just scoffed when Lehrer told him he had two minutes to talk about entitlements.
9:31 PM EST
Jim Lehrer: "Way over the two minute limit."
Obama: "Sorry." (He's not, but why should he be.)
Those of you over the legal drinking age should add "Lehrer reminds the candidates that this debate is supposed to be structured" to your drinking game.
9:27 PM EST
This is the second time tonight that Obama has used the phrase "the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression" and the second time he's talked about how great Bill Clinton was.
Also, they're basically ignoring Jim Lehrer at this point. This debate is neither moderate nor moderated, and I love it. I don't know how it can go on like this for another hour without turning into a fistfight.
Romney: "Look at the evidence of the last four years!" 32 million on food stamps when Obama took office and 47 million on food stamps now? That might be Bush's fault, but it's a valid point.
Lehrer: "We're technically now in a second 15 minute segment on the economy." The "technically" says it all. This is gloriously out of control.
9:17 PM EST
Romney: "Virtually everything he just said about my tax plan is inaccurate."
30 seconds later...
Romney: "Now you cite a study. There's six other studies that look at the study you just cited and say it's completely wrong."
He didn't just come to play. He came to win.
9:16 PM EST
Speaking of not asking questions when you're supposed to... any West Wing junkies in the house?
9:15 PM EST
President Obama just raised a number of very important questions, but did he answer any of them?
Romney is smacking down. He might be supposed to be asking a question right now, but instead he's raining numbers like it's his job. Referring to the detrimental effects of the economy on Middle America (ie. $4,300 of less income) as an "economy tax?" Genius. Obama is literally hanging his head right now.
But actually, there wasn't a question in that question.
9:09 PM EST
Romney: "I'm sure this is the most romantic place you could imagine, here with me." Comment of the night award goes to Romney. Everyone else go home.
Romney's answer is definitely more specific- the line about "cracking down on China if and when they cheat" takes serious guts. But referring to Obama's policy as "trickle down" economics?
T: Is this opposites night?
9:06 PM EST
Romney looks like he's about to punch Obama, which, as T put it, "would probably win him all of Middle America right there."
First question goes to Obama, who is taking the time to wish the First Lady happy anniversary- is he courting the women's vote? I definitely "d'awwwwww"-ed.
8:59 PM EST
Friends' responses to the commentary:
Megyn Kelly: We have to remember that these aren't just candidates, they're human beings.
J: No they're not!
8:54 PM EST
Happy 20th Anniversary to the first couple! Tweeting at each other- what an adorable way to celebrate in the 21st century.
8:52 PM EST
T-minus 8 minutes to debate time. Prepare for a long night of gesticulating by reviewing this analysis of what messages the candidate's different hand gestures will send to viewers.
Wednesday, October 3, 4:26 PM EST
Wednesday, October 3, 12:46 AM EST
This is going viral at Yale right now. Happy Debate Day!
Update: Tuesday, October 2, 10:41 PM EST
I'm reading some Aristotle for a class that meets on Thursday so that I'll have time to focus on the debate tomorrow, and I just stumbled upon a quotation that seems relevant to American politics in general, particularly our seemingly endless election cycles that make winning the election seem like the end goal of politics:
"In the past, as is natural, they thought it right to perform public service when their turn came, and then to have someone look to their good, just as they had earlier looked to his benefit when they were in office. Nowadays, however, because of the profits to be had from public funds and from office, people want to be in office continuously, as if they were sick and would be cured by being always in office." -Politics III.7, trans. C.D.C. Reeve