FINAL BUZZER: Obama definitely “won” the debate, but left a lot of points on the table and missed some opportunities to really clobber Romney.
Romney didn’t fail, but he didn’t impress. That would be well and good if he was the frontrunner, but he’s not. Fed into the narrative that he changes his mind and doesn’t have strong specifics.
8:56: Debate is over. Everyone shakes hands, endless stream of Romney children and grandchildren come on stage.
8:54: Romney closes by promising not to cut funding from military. Really odd choice for a final point, since he can’t win the military/foreign policy issue.
8:52: Will we get one final list from Romney?
“I’ll get incomes up again,” says Romney. How? Magic!
8:51: Closing statements. Obama goes first. Apparently there was a coin toss.
“Four years ago, I said I’m not a perfect man and I probably won’t be a perfect President.” Nice close.
8:50: Nice shot by Obama, who says Romney hasn’t shown a willingness to say no to any extreme idea proposed by his party.
8:48: Obama says he will take ideas from anybody, Democrat or Republican, as long as they are advancing things and making them stronger.
Obama finally mentions Osama bin Laden. That must have been really hard to sit on that card for so long.
8:47: Romney says we have to work together because there is common ground. Has he not seen Congress?
8:45: Lehrer says there are only 3 minutes left, then takes about 2 minutes trying to ask a question about partisan gridlock.
8:44: Hey, look at that. Romney made a funny. He said Obama not entitled to his own facts.
Now he’s back on the $90 billion invested in renewable energy.
8:43: Obama droning on a little.
8:42: It would be hard to be more boring than Romney.
8:41: Things are getting repetitive. Obama answering question about federal government role in education with same points made earlier.
8:40: Lehrer asks for specifics on plans. Romney looks excited — he can’t wait to start another list.
8:39: Romney morphing into a Tea Party robot.
8:38: Romney says that he loves schools and teachers…then says that it’s up to states whether they want more teachers. Dumbass.
8:37: Obama says Romney doesn’t think we need more teachers, “but I do.”
8:36: No idea what Obama is talking about now.
8:34: Lehrer asked another question, but we didn’t catch it. Obama says first role of government is to keep people safe. Romney seems puzzled.
8:32: Romney is brutal. He’s terrible at this. We’re 90 minutes into the debate and he hasn’t said anything memorable. He also hasn’t proved that he can count higher than 4.
8:31: And…momentum stops again. Obama seemed to be on a solid line of attack but never got there.
8:30: Obama coming back to life, lands another shot. Says Romney’s plan is basically what we have already.
8:29: Romney says that key to bringing down healthcare costs is “performance incentives.”
8:28: “#1, #2, #3…” This isn’t a high school debate, Gov’nuh.
8:27: Obama lands minor shot. Says Romney hasn’t said what he’ll do instead of Obamacare. We sense another list coming from Romney.
8:25: Obama not landing any blows despite open shot. Instead he’s trying to explain the “death panel” thing.
8:23: Romney talking about Romneycare. He’s really looking bad now. Just seems completely flustered. He’s like a punch-drunk boxer wobbling around waiting to get knocked out.
8:21: Missed opportunity for Obama here. Took too long trying to make a point that Obamacare is like Romneycare. By the time he got to the punchline, the message was lost.
8:20: Obama clarifying Obamacare. Says “Insurance companies can’t jerk you around.”
8:20: Obama has a great chance to land a huge shot now…and…and…never mind.
8:19: This was inevitable when you just repeat lists. Romney just listed two points, calling each point “#4.” He’s looking silly now.
8:18: Romney trying to be folksy by talking about people he has met who can’t afford health cares. Doesn’t say whether or not he gives a shit, but he’s trying to tell a story.
8:18: Lehrer asks about Obamacare.
8:17: Romney talking about “qualified mortgages.” This is why he’s probably not going to be President. The average American has no idea what the hell he’s talking about.
8:16: Obama says Romney wants to repeal Dodd-Frank. Obama finally comes back to life and says if you think there was too much regulation of Wall Street, then Gov. Romney is your candidate. Body blow.
8:15: This has officially gotten boring. Somebody throw a shoe or something.
8:14: Romney says something about Dodd-Frank. Lehrer interrupts: “Do you support Dodd-Frank?”
America says, “WTF?”
8:12: Lehrer seems flustered. Romney is hurting his brain with listapalooza.
8:11: Obama seems to have been put to sleep as well. He’s talking about…something.
8:10: Does Romney know that he’s not leading this race? Because he’s putting America to sleep with endless stacks of numbers and random facts. Maybe he just wants to make sure he lands the “Accountant” voting block.
8:09: Here comes another list from Romney!
8:08: On a bipartisan note, both men seem to have done a nice job on their facial makeup.
8:07: Romney says the plan they are talking about “is for future people, not current retirees.” Uh…yeah. “Future people.”
8:06: An hour into the debate, here’s Romney’s strategy: List five numbers, mention something about Obama, list five more numbers.
8:05: Romney says our seniors depend on these programs. Says “neither the President nor I are proposing changes for current retirees.” After a beat, Romney says, “Oh wait, there is one.” Another Romney staffer’s head explodes.
8:03: Obama tells story about his grandmother who worked hard but needed Social Security and Medicare. Obama is clearly a much better storyteller than Romney. He’s weaving a narrative rather than just blurting bullet points.
8:02: Lehrer asks about Social Security and other entitlements.
8:00: For the love of Ronald Reagan, stop spewing random numbers, Romney. His response to every question is to say as many numbers as he can in two minutes.
7:58: Romney bursting at the seams to rattle off numbers. Says oil company tax breaks is really just an accounting trick.
Obama: “It’s time to end it.”
Romney flustered by that. Says $90 billion in tax breaks for solar and wind.
$90 billion? That seems a bit high. FACT CHECK!
7:56: Obama now talking about teacher in Las Vegas who has 42 students and not enough books. Where’d that segway come from?
7:55: Obama says oil industry gets $4 billion in corporate welfare. “Does anybody think ExxonMobil needs extra money? Why wouldn’t we want to eliminate that?” These are the kind of lines that really hit home.
7:54: Romney: “Spain spends 42 percent of its budget on government. We’re now spending 42 percent of our budget on government. I don’t want to go down the path to Spain.”
Obama tries to hide a wide grin. The rest of America says, “What’s wrong with Spain?”
7:53: Romney going on and on and on about “trillion dollar deficits.” Whoever told him to list as many facts and numbers as possible should be canned.
7:52: Lehrer asks Romney, “What about Simpson-Bowles”. America responds, “Who the what?”
7:50: Obama getting lost in numbers.
7:48: Obama listing things that he reduced or streamlined. Just listing things like Romney is not Obama’s strong point.
7:46: Romney keeps saying, #1, #2, #3, etc. Plan for debate must have included trying to sound like he was making specific points.
7:45: Romney says he’ll cut PBS and looks at Lehrer. “I love PBS. I love Big Bird. I actually like you, too.” But we can’t borrow money from China. WTF?
7:44: Romney goes first. Says deficit reduction is a moral issue, then steps right into the giant hole that Obama just dug for him. Insists that he can lower taxes and everything else and still raise revenue to cut deficit.
7:43: Lehrer asks new question. What are the differences between you two about how you would tackle the deficit.
7:41: Somewhere a Romney advisor’s head is exploding. Romney just babbling tossing out numbers and statistics.
7:40: Romney trying to get the last word — seems to understand he is getting pummeled.
7:38: Another good shot for Obama. “I would say this to the American people. If you believe that we can make $5 trillion in tax cuts and add $2 trillion in additional spending – $7 trillion dollars – by closing loopholes and deductions for the well to do, that you won’t end up picking up the tab, then maybe Gov. Romney’s plan is for you. I think math, common sense, and our history has shown that this isn’t a recipe for jobs growth.”
Obama says Romney’s plan is the same one from 2002-03 that caused economic recession. Says his plan is more like Clinton’s that was successful.
7:36: Romney rattling off a bunch of different numbers and names of taxes. Now floating off into wonk-ville.
7:35: Lehrer says they aren’t on time, as if that was going to be possible.
7:34: Obama wanders off into nowhere and seems to have lost his train of thought.
7:32: Obama lands another big blow. “Now, 5 weeks before election, he’s saying that his big, bold idea is ‘never mind.’ It is not possible to come up with enough loopholes and deductions to accomplish what he [Romney] wants.
“It’s math,” says Obama.
7:31: Romney blathering on about economic studies before Lehrer mercifully cuts him off.
7:30: Romney says he will lower taxes on middle income families but will not raise taxes for high income people. Maybe he’ll tax Canada if elected President of North America.
7:28: Romney says virtually everything Obama said about his tax plan is inaccurate. “I’m not for a $5 trillion tax cut.”
Now for the most ridiculous statement thus far. Romney: “There is no economist who can say Mitt Romney’s tax plan adds $5 trillion if I say I will not add to the deficit to the tax plan.” Economic theory be damned! If Romney says it, then it will happen!
7:25: Obama responds. Says he promised to cut taxes for middle class four years ago, and he did.
Says Romney’s proposal calls for a $5 trillion tax cut on top of $2 trillion spending for military. Says Romney claims he would do this by closing loopholes, but has never mentioned specifics despite being asked hundreds of times.
“When you add up all the loopholes and deductions that the upper class enjoys, you come close to reaching that $5 trillion.” First blow of debate landed. Point: Obama.
7:23: This one is going to come back to bite him in the ass. Romney says he won’t push a tax cut that adds to the deficit.” What fiscal magic is this?
7:22: Romney says, “And by the way, I like coal.” Says he wants to get “North America energy independent.” Is he aware that this election is only for the Presidency of the U.S.?
7:21: Romney makes an absurd argument while Obama smiles. He says that oil and gas production is on the rise, but not because of Obama’s policies. Romney says the increased production is on private lands, not on government land.
7:20: Now Romney is talking about credits and debits and…we fell asleep. Is he done?
7:19: Romney tried coining a phrase “the economy tax.” Says middle income families are struggling. This is the same guy, mind you, who thinks “middle class” make about $200k a year.
7:18: Romney says his plan doesn’t call for a huge tax cut. “My view is that we ought to provide tax relief to the middle class.” Glad he cleared that up. Not a tax cut — a tax relief.
“I’m not going to reduce share of taxes paid by high income people…They’ll do fine whether you’re President or I am.” Romney pulls out a hundred-dollar bill and wipes his brow.
7:17: Uh, okay. Romney is asked if he has a question he’d like to ask Obama about something he just said. Is this Jim Lehrer moderating a debate or a divorce settlement?
7:15: Obama takes first swing of the night. Says Romney’s central economic plan is for a $5 trillion tax cut, and $3 trillion in other cuts and military spending that the military hasn’t asked for. Says how to do this without dumping on middle class is one of central issues in this campaign. Romney smirking.
7:14: Obama talks about more community college students. Close loopholes for shipping jobs overseas. Says that he and Romney both agree that we need to increase energy production in traditional sources and wind, solar, biofuels.
7:13: Obama starts talking about his economic plan. Not sure why he didn’t do that 5 minutes ago.
First point is to improve schools. Talks about “Race to the Top” program. Obama wants to hire 100,000 new math and science teachers. Students everywhere groan.
7:11: Next question for Obama: Respond to the “trickle down economics” theory.
7:10: Romney: I know what it takes to get small business going again. “I’ll restore the vitality that gets America going again.” Whatever the hell that means.
7:09: #3 Give people tools to succeed and best schools in the world. #4 Balanced budget. #5 Champion small business. Romney says that in the last four years, people have decided not to open a small business in America. Apparently they are waiting on Romney’s magic fairy dust…or is that point #6?
7:08: Romney talking about people he met who want jobs. Now laying out his plan. #1 Energy independence, #2 Open up more trade, particularly in Latin America. Crack down on China, particularly when they cheat (is this part of #2?)
7:07: Romney’s turn. “This is obviously a very tender topic.”
7:06: Obama’s answer…kind of blah.
7:05: Obama says question is not about “where we’ve been, but where we’re going.”
7:04: First question about jobs. Obama says his 20th wedding anniversary is today.
7:00: And we’re underway. Barack Obama enters wearing a blue tie, Mitt Romney with a red tie.