Live Blog: First 2012 Presidential Debate

Nate Beeler, Columbus Dispatch

Finally the big night has arrived!

The first presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will take place tonight at 9PM in Denver, Colorado. The moderator will be Jim Lehrer of PBS. You can watch the debate on CNN, C-Span, or live stream it at multiple sites around the internet. Lots of people are boycotting CNN because they haven’t fired Erick Erickson. I plan to stream it on the C-Span site.

This has to be one of the most hyped presidential debates in history. I know all you Sky Dancers are extremely knowledgeable and don’t need to be told what to watch out for in the debate, but I’ll provide a few links just so you can see what different blogs are saying about it.

Talking Points Memo:

What to What To Look For In The Debate — And How To Unspin It. Brian Beutler will be watching for what the candidates say about a number of issues from a liberal point of view.

health care reform – How will Romney differentiate Obama care from Romney care?

Medicare and Medicaid – These have become difficult issues for Romney. Beutler doesn’t say this, but I’ll be watching to see if President Obama uses this to his advantage and especially if he makes a real commitment to protect these important programs.

Welfare – Romney made a big issue of welfare based on a blatant lie about Obama’s policies. Will Obama call him out on it? How will Romney try to fudge his lies?

Taxes – Romney claims he can lower taxes for everyone and still cut the deficit. Everyone knows that’s impossible. Can Obama force him to get into specifics and defend the indefensible?

Tax Returns – Journalists have been digging out lots of embarrassing tidbits from Romney’s recently released 2011 return. Will Obama get into the nitty gritty? How will Romney defend his low tax rate?

47 Percent – This will be huge for Obama to hit Romney on. Can Romney defend his ugly remarks? Polls show they have had a powerful effect on voters around the country.

The Wall Street Journal

has a piece today that reflects expectations for the debate from the conservative side. Apparently the Romney campaign is mostly focused how how they’ll spin the debate to best effect.

Wednesday’s debate will offer an important moment to help shape the Romney campaign’s message moving forward. Here’s a look at how they plan to capitalize on it.

Team Romney’s debate-monitoring strategy is, essentially, broken into three parts. A group of staffers in an annex office in Boston have their own version of a war room to monitor televisions, debate transcripts and Twitter. That helps feed the rapid response effort – a group of some two dozen staffers in a second-floor conference room in Boston.

Unlike past debates where the response crew pumped out lengthy research documents, this time they’ll focus on pithier push-back using Twitter and Tumblr. The strategy is partly to inform the media, but it’s also designed to provide supporters with simple talking points.

Politico spells out the Republican point of view 

on what to watch for in the debate. I’ll just give you some brief excerpts. They say Romney has to

be aggressive without attacking the president, who has high personal approval ratings too fiercely. He has to seem tough but also presidential, assertive but not snide. He has to accuse Obama of not being honest with voters, without sounding shrill.

As for Obama, they say he needs to attack Romney aggressively while still maintaining his nice guy image.

Fact one: Obama’s surge against Romney was powered by a relentless, pounding summertime assault — led by surrogates and staff for the most part — on his challenger’s fitness to lead and capacity to comprehend the struggles of regular working people.

Fact Two: Obama’s surge was also fueled by a huge lead over Romney on personal approval — and that edge could disappear if he appears too negative tonight.

Politico says the 47 percent issue and Libya will be the biggest vulnerabilities for Romney and Obama respectively.

There is a substantial chance that either candidate will say something new, and memorable, when answering a question about one of those topics, which have posed problems for Romney and Obama, respectively, over the past few weeks. There’s a moderate chance both will.

Romney is well aware that he will be asked about his remarks, secretly videotaped at a fundraiser last May, that 47 percent of Americans — those backing the president in his reelection bid — considerer themselves “victims” and expect free things from government.


The administration’s initial claim, that the Benghazi protest was modeled after one taking place in Egypt against a video that expressed anti-Muslim sentiment, has been disputed. Nine days after the attack on the Sept. 11 anniversary, White House press secretary Jay Carney described it as a “self-evident” terror attack, but one of “opportunism,” not premeditation.

That description has also changed. While the issue is not dominating all cable news coverage as it did in the first few days after the death of four American diplomats, for Republicans, it cuts to the heart of Obama’s strength on foreign policy, historically a Republican calling card in national elections but an area that has favored the president since the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Politico also suggests that Obama “may not be ready for prime time,” and that Romney may have a chance to “get under Obama’s skin” early on. Finally, they expect both candidates to bring up Bill Clinton.

As with the WSJ, Politico–which gets plenty of leaks from the Romney campaign–is more focused on style than substance. We have to assume that is Romney’s focus as well. No mention of the famous “zingers” that Romney has been rehearsing for months.

Romney made a little news in the past few days.

Today he said that he will not continue Obama’s program of giving work permits to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, but he wouldn’t take away any permits that have been given out before he became president.

If elected president, Mitt Romney would not continue the new program that grants work permits and suspends deportation for two years for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as minors, his campaign says, according to the Boston Globe.

Romney would not revoke work permits for people who obtain them by the time he would take office, on Jan. 20, but he would not grant any after that, the campaign says, according to the Boston Globe report.

Critics of Romney’s latest position on the initiative say it will doom the vast majority of the more than 1 million people who could be eligible for it. Since the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, USCIS, began accepting Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals applications on Aug. 15, only 29 people have been granted deferred action and work permits.

Romney has also been talking about a cap on tax deductions as a way to pay for his tax cuts on top earners.

The Obama campaign seized on Romney’s comments in an interview with a local TV station in Colorado Monday night, saying that his mention of a possible $17,000 cap on itemized deductions would mean higher taxes for “many families.”

The campaign used the example of a family of four making $125,000 a year, and another of a family of three with an annual income of $85,000. Both, the Obama campaign said, would claim more than $17,000 a year in tax deductions, meaning that under Romney’s idea of a cap they would pay more than they do now.

But a Romney campaign adviser not authorized to speak publicly said that the biggest number used by the Obama campaign to come up with its result was one not included under a cap system: the tax exclusion for employer-provided health insurance. This was a $16,000-a-year value under the Obama campaign example, but without that number, in its scenarios the two families would get a tax cut, instead of paying more, according to the Romney advisor.

An Obama campaign adviser, who spoke on the condition he not be identified, said that “even if health is not included, it’s very easy to get to the same math starting with the mortgage interest deduction.”

So those two issues might come up in the debate.


I expect Romney to come out swinging like he did against Newt Gingrich in the Florida Primary debate. If he’s too wired, I think he could hurt himself early on by coming across as a boor, which is never difficult for him. I think he’ll also hurt himself badly if he doesn’t come out with some straight talk about the numbers in his tax plan.

For Obama, I agree with Politico that he needs to be aggressive, and I don’t think he needs to worry about coming across as mean. He would have to go a long way for anyone to think he has a nastier attitude than Romney. I also want to see Obama stand up strongly for the social safety net and make a real commitment to protect it. I’m sure Jim Lehrer will bring up Simpson-Bowles, and I’d like to see Obama explain why there are serious problems with the media’s favorite hobby-horse. Finally, I think he needs to push Romney hard on abortion and birth control.

What will you be watching for tonight?


180 Comments on “Live Blog: First 2012 Presidential Debate”

  1. dakinikat says:

    So, do we drink red zinger tea when Romney’s zingers are dropped and stale?

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Just for fun: Watch Romney’s and Obama’s worst debate moments at Mother Jones.

  3. Mona says:

    HI my long lost blog family!!! I am here for the fish. This is Mona the Wonk, btw. Too lazy to log into my other wordpress 🙂

  4. Mona says:

    This is the question I left on the comment section of C-Span’s facebook post asking for debate questions this morning…

    “For both Oprecious and Mittens: 1) Define social safety net. 2) How would you define a social safety net to your donors behind closed doors? 3) Explain the difference between 1 and 2.”

  5. janicen says:

    Are we doing predictions? I predict Romney will do okay which will be great for him since he’s looked like a stooge up to this point, and I also predict it won’t make a bit of difference. No bounce for either candidate, everyone’s already made up their minds.

    I’ll pass on the tea shooters, I was going to stick with ice water but hubby just brought me a glass of sauvignon blanc. 😛

    • RalphB says:

      I don’t like presidential debates. They’re usually too good a vehicle for the candidates to come off as fakes. Anyone who remembers Dubya convincing a lot of people that he would run a more humble foreign policy than Gore has to admit that much.

      • pdgrey says:

        I don’t either Ralph, which is I chose the glass of wine.

      • janicen says:

        Totally agree. Debates aren’t debates anymore although I could go back and rewatch Bill Clinton’s debates again and again. This isn’t going to be that, for sure.

  6. Beata says:

    I wish I was feeling sharper tonight. I’m here even if I don’t have much to say!

  7. Fannie says:

    I think Obama will come out first thing saying he will help take care of everybody, the young, the old, rich and poor, republicans and democrats, and brand Romney with the 47%………….Hell he is the president.

  8. Hey, I like that bit about keeping it quiet…

    Red tie, blue tie…

  9. bostonboomer says:

    Romney says Obama supports “trickle down government.” Is that one of his zingers?

  10. bostonboomer says:

    Romney’s smirk is starting to break through.

  11. Beata says:

    1st Question: How would you create new jobs?

    Obama: Focus must be on future not past. Invest in education and infrastructure. Need “New Economic Patriotism”. Economic policy should not be from the top down.

    Rmoney: Said something boring that blew by me.

  12. mablue2 says:

    Did Romney just change his tax plan again?

  13. bostonboomer says:

    Lehrer asked Romney if he had a question and now he’s filibustering. Am I missing something?

  14. bostonboomer says:

    Romney says he’ll allow oil drilling on public lands.

  15. RalphB says:

    I lost this in all the debate hype. Andrew Sullivan posts about Iran. Maybe more news worthy than debate one.

    Is Iran’s Economy Collapsing?

    Protests erupted today in Tehran over the country’s currency free fall, a hopeful sign for the impact of Obama’s sanctions. Matthew O’Brien explains the currency crisis:

    Iran’s currency has collapsed in two ways — gradually and then suddenly. Iran is very much in the sudden phase right now. It took 24,600 rials to buy one dollar on September 24. It took 39,000 rials to buy one dollar on October 2. That’s good for a 59 percent drop in just a week. This kind of currency cliff-diving is basically a bank run on the rial — a bank run U.S.-led sanctions set off.

    This is a regime on the edge. The only thing the hardliners can hope for at this point is an Israeli attack or a Romney victory and impending US war to rally the people behind them.

  16. Fannie says:

    Romney is wrong………there is no such thing as CLEAN COAL.

  17. What was that about the higher classes?

  18. Beata says:

    Mitt: Energy. Trade. Balancing the budget. Energy. Car elevators. Education.

    Says he likes coal.

  19. bostonboomer says:

    Obama is underwhelming so far….

  20. bostonboomer says:

    Romney: I won’t reduce taxes as much as my plan says. Trust me.

  21. mablue2 says:

    So what the hell is Romney’s tax plan????

  22. mablue2 says:

    My God this debate is tedious!!!

  23. janicen says:

    Lehrer needs to control this better.

  24. Obama is not being very LeBron baby…

  25. I hate Romney, he is disgusting! I liked the bit about Trump being a small business.

  26. bostonboomer says:

    Obama needs to challenge Romney on what he’s saying. It makes no sense, but he’s very smooth in talking about it.

  27. Fannie says:

    Romney mentioned his tax on small businesses, and brought up Bowles Simpson………..didn’t Paul Ryan vote against that?

  28. mablue2 says:

    This smirk of Romney is irritating the hell out of me. Arrrggrrrr@@@%&$!!!!!

  29. Beata says:

    Rmoney has obviously been practicing looking at Obama like Obama is a moron.

    Mitt says he has five boys and is used to hearing lies.

    Mitt’s mantra: “Lower taxes”. Saying it over and over. Then everyone will be able to buy a Dancing Horse. Life will be good. Unless you’re a lazy loser.

  30. Good points from O on Clinton… Romney is an ass!

  31. bostonboomer says:

    Romney keeps saying his plan isn’t what Obama says it is. Then what the fuck is it?!! ASK HIM to spell it out!!!!!!!

  32. bostonboomer says:

    Unfortunately, Romney is winning by spouting gobblety-gook, because no one is calling him on it.

  33. bostonboomer says:

    Romney will cut back government employees. Won’t that reduce the number of jobs?

  34. pdgrey says:

    Does anybody think Romney is speaking to fast? It’s like he thinks he has to get it all out in one answer.

  35. Fannie says:

    Attrition, attrition……..then that means no job openings…………Big Bird to the rescue.

  36. I hate this!

    And what the hell is it? Romney’s answer to everything is leave it to the states and fuck big bird?

  37. ROFL Romney paraphrase (only slight…) “Obama should have jumped on Simpson-Bowles, but I won’t commit to it”

  38. I think we are fucked! CNN has this graph running along the bottom and when Romney talks, it goes up.

  39. bostonboomer says:

    He we go with Simpson-Bowles. I told you it’s every talking head’s favorite. They want to see non-rich Americans suffer.

  40. Hey, Lehrer needs to interrupt Romney…like he was doing to Obama.

  41. RalphB says:

    Obama is letting Romney ramble on and it looks like he’s kind of enjoying it.

  42. bostonboomer says:

    Romney is starting to sound patronizing now. He’s talking down to Obama and Obama isn’t fighting back. I’m disappointed in him.

  43. Beata says:

    Mitt has his own plan. It’s not Simpson-Bowles’ plan. It’s a top secret plan. He doesn’t have to share it with us.

    • bostonboomer says:

      No, because when Mitt is president, all problems will disappear. Suddenly Wall Street will be happy and confident and the “job creators” will go back to creating jobs.

  44. bostonboomer says:

    I think it might be time for Obama to do that middle finger thing he did with Hillary.

  45. bostonboomer says:

    At least Obama is being specific about deductions he would eliminate.

  46. janicen says:

    Obama is scoring points with the “Corporate welfare” stuff.

  47. bostonboomer says:

    Obama is beginning to warm up. He’s starting to sound a lot more confident and he’s making sense, unlike Romney.

    • RalphB says:

      Obama is actually giving information while Romney is flinging poo. Tomorrow we’ll know which people liked best.

  48. bostonboomer says:

    I can’t look at the picture anymore because Romney is letting his smirk flag fly. It’s nasty.

  49. mablue2 says:

    Another zinger!

  50. janicen says:

    Some expert was on the morning show said that you can tell who wins the debate by turning off the sound. If that’s the measure, Obama is winning because he looks more composed. Romney looks frenzied.

  51. Beata says:

    It’s the Mitt Show. Obama is a non-factor tonight.

  52. bostonboomer says:

    Romney praises Tommy Thompson who is currently losing badly in his Senate race.

  53. Oooh, Obama grandmother… social security … NICE

  54. bostonboomer says:

    Romney is such a fucking liar!!! He says current retirees can stop listening right now. He doesn’t understand that normal people actually care about their children and grandchildren and even young people they aren’t related to.

  55. mablue2 says:

    Can Obama knock this 716 Billion Dollar out of the park once for all?

  56. Alright this is a donkey of a debate, and not the Democratic kind…
    My sister and I are currently mulling over plans to move to Canada… 😉

  57. janicen says:

    Jeebus, I consider myself kinda wonky and I’m bored to death.

  58. Oh great, every time Mitt Romney says the name Bill Clinton in a debate (this goes back to 2008 and that stale joke about not wanting Bill Clinton back in the WH with nothing to do…), I want to scream!!!!!!

  59. janicen says:

    Smirk away, Mittens. It’s hurting you.

  60. Why is Romney MODERATING this debatE? WTF?

  61. mablue2 says:

    Do we have a moderator on this debate?

    • bostonboomer says:

      The plan was to have each person talk briefly and then discussion, but Lehrer is just letting Romney filibuster.

  62. janicen says:

    Oooohh! “New York banks” Dog whistle!

  63. Obama is finding his shaky foot on discussing the economy way too late into this debate, sigh

  64. pdgrey says:

    I can’t believe this shit. Romney’s voice is killing me. Mainly the speed but the flip-flopping lies are cirque du Soleil

  65. Somebody needs to clock the airtime Romney got vs. Obama got… where is the Obama who was fond of saying “I’m the president” for most of his first term? The hell?

  66. bostonboomer says:

    Why is Obama letting Romney lie lie lie? I think Obama has forgotten he is POTUS.

    • Beata says:

      Obama is so passive. Maybe he thought the debate was tommorrow night and forgot to suit up. He’s got no game tonight.

  67. RalphB says:

    Romney just completely changed his stance on wall st regulations. Amazing.

  68. janicen says:

    Fucking Lehrer is dozing in between “questions”.

  69. sorry it took me forever to get this pic up…

    oh and sorry it’s source is conservativeintel or whatvever the hell? I have no idea what that conservativeintel blog or site is, a friend just shared this with me on my facebook tonight and I thought it was pretty fitting in a bipartisan way 🙂

  70. “i like the way we did it in Mass” Uhhhhh

  71. jawbone says:

    Romney reminds me of Prof. Harold Hill in The Music Man — he will say anything, no matter how riduclous, in order to win a sale.

    Lehrer has no control over Romney, as mentioned above. I came in on him saying that he wanted to have the last word because Obama had the first comment in a segment. Lehrer let him run off at the mouth. Then, Romney got the first comment immediately after that.

    But Obama did not get the last work on that segment.

    Lehrer cannot manage this spinmeister, Ol’ Prof. Harold Romney.

  72. Fannie says:

    how many times did Romney veto democrats in the state of Mass?

  73. bostonboomer says:

    New thread up above!!! Come on up!

  74. pdgrey says:

    I know you guys have said it, but it really seems Romney has talked 10X longer

  75. jawbone says:

    But seems to me Obama missed a big chance to make some points about protecting Medicare. I don’t trust him on that or SocSec.

    I think I’m getting sick to my stomach.

  76. janicen says:

    Obama,”Zing!” Democrats in Mass can show Republicans how to cooperate.

  77. janicen says:

    I stand by my earlier prediction. Nobody will get a bounce. Both of them are speaking to their bases.

    • pdgrey says:

      well my prediction is no one on MSNBC is going to be happy. Because I’m not. I guess we can say President Obama looked and acted like the president. Romney looked like he had to say everything in two minutes because the damn place was on fire. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a candidate that was so desperate to be President without a reason. I swear if this guy is elected I might start watching Honey Boo Boo.

  78. janicen says:

    Geez, I guess there isn’t much difference between the two if you listen to Romney, so why not keep what we got?

  79. Silent Kate says:

    This is a strange debate….did Jim just fall asleep inbetween the talking points? Wow, he was going to move on and he let Romney just ramble on and on!

  80. Beata says:

    Come over to the new thread so we can all suffer through this together!