Presidential Debate 2012: In Obama vs Romney Debate, Romney Wins

Though President Barack Obama has been enjoying a sizable lead in recent polls over challenger Mitt Romney, all that could change. The first debate of the electoral cycle is set for Wednesday, October 3, will shed light on what topics both nominees consider important. 

This debate is focused on domestic policy, and Obama and Romney are sure to talk about the economy and job creation - which are perhaps the most important issues facing voters this election cycle. It will be interesting to see if the candidates discuss social issues, such as gay rights and abortion, as this is where they differ the most significantly.

Obama will likely point to Romney's inconsistency in his political beliefs, citing remarks Romney made as governer of Massachusetts. Romney will likely point to Obama's failure to make any significant economic improvement over the past four years, as the country is again on the brink of a recession.

This will be an important debate for both parties, as they try to define themselves once and for all in front of the American public. Romney in particularly has been struggling with his image, and this debate proves a good opportunity for him to focus on playing up his likeable side.

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UPDATES: 

Final Thoughts -- It seems that the hype surrounding this debate - the numerous news articles and coverage dedicated to it - was greater than the actual event. Both candidates held their own, both threw out a lot of facts related to tax policy and Medicare, and both were on the defensive for some amount of time. Romney had the most at stake coming into tonight; he desperately needed to rebrand himself as someone who understands the middle class and is responsive to American's frustrations. I think he effectively did that. Not an outstanding performance by either candidate, but in terms of who shifted the public discourse - definitely Romney (though now the internet is blowing up with Big Bird photos).

10:25 -- Romney's last effort to sound personable and likeable; he's pleading with the American people, convincing them that he cares for them. Obama's all about the middle class. Good message to resonate with viewers. Obama is lecturing Romney about being an effective leader. 

10:15 -- Wait... I may have spoken too soon. Obama harkening back to the days of Lincoln and great investments in our country is good, very good. Definitely re-captivated interest here. Romney's supporting school of choice for poor kids...

10:11 -- This debate is getting tiresome, even I'm waning in and out of paying attention. I'm getting frustrated with the lack of an overarching theme, particularly from Obama. What a change from the 2008 election feeling.

10:00 -- Obama doing a good job of explaining Obamacare, I hope he clears up misconceptions that Americans have about the health care law. Romney's taking issue with the process, not the result. Romney's pointing out minute differences between "Obamacare" and "Romneycare." He's losing the battle to defend his Massachusetts choice.

9:52 -- Good point by a colleague, American's don't know what the real truth is behind these numbers and claims by both candidates. It's a big show of who can convince the Americans they are the most sincere. I hope people look beyond the claims.

9:48 -- This back and forth is better - Romney pointing out large cuts to health programs that Obama does, in fact, support, but Obama coming right back against a voucher program that Romney proposes. Obama's winning on subtle jabs and memorable lines, however.

9:40 -- Romney contesting oil subsidies as an "accounting measure."Romney also says companies don't get a tax break for shipping jobs overseas - I'm not sure on the maths, but this smells fishy. The first federal vs states rights debate is creeping in, in terms of Medicaid. Romney pivoting to individual responsibility and prosperity, a lynchpin of his campaign.

9:27 -- Romney hates big bird, despite his protestations. He's sticking to a balanced budget, but at what cost? He's open to promoting growth, but studies show that raising taxes on the wealthy have no effect on economic growth, contrary to popular opinion. Obama's deficit reduction plan includes both spending cuts and revenue increases - suggests he's taking the Bowles-Simpson recommendations. Haven't heard much from him about the problem of the debt.

9:14 -- "Let's talk about taxes." Okay! Obama trying to prove chops on taxes for middle class families, Romney is remaining staunch against tax cuts for the wealthy. So far, candidates are agreeing on helping the middle class. I want to hear how. Obama points out that Romney keeping taxes the same on top earners will increase taxes on middle class families. Romney's bottom line: bring down rates, lower deductions. It's best said by Alan Smith of the Roosevelt Institute, "So, it's pretty clear that this is going to be 1.5 hrs of 2 Statistical Ships passing in the night. but with middlelass iceburgs."

9:05 -- First five minutes and Obama mentions the auto industry. That's playing well in Michigan. Personally happy he mentioned tax policy. Romney making good point about economic stagnation, I'm liking the specifics he's giving.

8:46 -- Already problems between grads and undergrads. Tensions are running high and the debate hasn't begun. 

8:12 -- Allow me to set the scene. I'm live-blogging from the University of Michigan Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy in Ann Arbor. I'll be watching and reacting with undergrad and grad students, complete with live polled reactions! (Full disclosure: we lean liberal.)


6:40 – Wait a minute, does this debate even matter? A great primer from the good folks at CNN.

6:23 – A friend pointed out that both candidates are playing the "debate game," which is as follows: in the days preceding the debate, both campaigns play up the expertise and ability of the other debater, painting their opponent as a master in previous debates. Having sufficiently lowered expectations for themselves, the candidate will be reviewed favorably by pundits and the general public if they do not significantly mess up! 

3:45 – This article (from Bloomberg Businessweek) brought to light an interesting point: whom exactly will Romney address in tonight’s debate? So far, Romney has seemed to pander almost exclusively to his base – is this a hangover from his primary run or a deliberate attempt to paint himself as exclusively conservative? Something I’m looking forward to thinking about tonight.

12:38 – Check out this interactive feature about what the candidates’ gestures tell us (from New York Times).