President Obama – using his two minutes to wish happy anniversary. Swell guy? Or no answer? Hmm… – Sam Novack 9:05 p.m. Pre-debate thoughts: Obviously the economy is going to be a central focus of this debate. Obama will have to defend his stewardship thus far of a particularly sluggish economy. Romney will have to prove why he has better ideas—and especially why his primary answer (tax cuts) doesn’t unfairly favor one segment of society over another. -Russell Bogue 9:06 p.m. Romney’s 5-Point Plan is nice departure from his normally vague promises, but still lacks specifics: “champion small business” is pretty much the priority of every president and presidential candidate. How does Romney’s plan do this better than Obama’s? That’s what we want to know. -Russell Bogue 9:09 p.m. Both candidates manage to start off with harmless niceties, and I’m sure that Romney wishing Obama a happy anniversary will be the nicest it gets tonight. Romney did a better job of contrasting himself from Obama, although both did fairly well in outlining their economic plans. Also, Romney looks much less orange than normal. -Forrest Brown 9:10 p.m. Romney’s got an edge in this early round, I think! Obama can say what he want about increases in traditional energies, but Romney is right in saying that these growths have happened IN SPITE of Obama’s policies. -Sam Novack 9:14 p.m. Romney claims he will propose no tax cut that add to the deficit: how do we cut taxes by up to 20% and still maintain a balanced budget without crippling spending cuts to vital government programs? As Obama notes, the tax cuts equal $5 trillion, and Romney proposes increasing military spending by $2 trillion: that’s $7 trillion that needs to be made up. Loopholes? Really? -Russell Bogue 9:16 p.m. The central issue so far has clearly been the respective tax plans of Romney and Obama. Both are trying to argue their interpretation of Governor Romney’s plan as either a wealthy-centric burden on the deficit or relief for the middle class. Both are citing studies and quoting their plans, the question will be whether or not the voters are willing to do the research to discover who’s right. Without doing it myself, I’d say both are probably exaggerating to some degree. So far the only advantage I’m willing to give is to Obama’s tie dimple. -Forrest Brown 9:19 p.m. Romney makes a very pertinent and powerful point when he cites that 54% of business owners are taxed in the individual tax bracket—a strong case for lowering tax rates across the board. -Russell Bogue 9:20 p.m. The audience is already breaking their silence to chuckle at Jim’s loss of control of the debate. That didn’t take too long. Obama seems pretty stuck on the same two points – the $5 trillion tax cuts and the $2 trillion increase in military spending. I’d like to see him explain/defend what approach he approves of. I’ve heard Clinton’s name dropped a few times, but Obama hasn’t answered for his tax increases. …and now Romney talked down poor Jim again. That guy is obviously not ready. -Sam Novack 9:25 p.m. The moderator is not able to control either candidate from harping on the same topics or to move on, I’m pretty sure we’ve seen the same arguments presented over and over for the last 10 minutes. -Forrest Brown 9:25 p.m. They are actually making factually opposite claims. Either the tax break totals $5 trillion dollars or it doesn’t—isn’t this pretty black and white? Who is right here? You can’t play politics with facts (or you can, but it’s stupid). -Russell Bogue 9:26 p.m. A point lost on both the candidates and voters: Congress is constitutionally charged with setting the budget for the United States. Budget deficits and a failed tax code are failures of Congress, not the Executive. -Russell Bogue 9:30 Now we hear how the deficits are going to be cut by both sides. Romney does not plan on cutting $5 trillion in taxes and miraculously staying on budget. He just outlined that he is NOT going to keep all these massive tax-money spending government programs. And Obama just says “whoa…I was handed a tough situation.” More Bush-blaming. Not surprising. The fact is, he raised the deficit with his ineffective stimulus and programs like Obamacare. -Sam Novack 9:31 p.m. A rare agreement! The issue of revenue will be crucial, as it one of the few areas the candidates are willing to admit they hold opposing policies. The question is whether or not the American people agree with Romney that all taxes hurt the economy, or side with Obama’s view that the wealthy need to pay more and corporations should not be given as many tax breaks. -Forrest Brown 9:36 p.m. Romney wants to balance the budget by growing the economy—creating more jobs, and thus higher incomes, and thus higher revenues. Obama proposes mathematics: raising taxes a certain amount and cutting spending a certain amount. We can debate the merits of each, but it seems pretty clear that Romney is basing budget deficit reduction on proposed job increases that may or may not materialize, while Obama is basing his on plus and minus signs. -Russell Bogue 9:36 p.m. Jim Lehrer, Virginia resident, letting things get out of hand in the his 12th debate as moderator. Candidates interrupting, going over allotment — part of debate where each of them becomes an economist. Obama relies on “worst recession since the great depression” to bail out his difficulties; Romney quoting “Path to Spain” echoing Hayek’s “Road to Serfdom” -Aaron Eisen 9:38 p.m. Obama – why should we want Exxon and Mobil to make more money? Hmm…maybe because it’s an American company? It’s the same thing as his smear campaigns. Why is Romney a bad candidate? Because he knows how to turn a profit? He knows how to make things happen. Interesting side-note – it’s Obama’s breaks to Green Energy and his restrictions on traditional fuels that have led to the high gas prices he’s crying about. He’s killin’ me, he really is. -Sam Novack 9:38 p.m. I think Obama is probably going to win the medicare debate- he has a stronger plan, and the people who matter on this issue (seniors) are not fond of the voucher system Romney is trying to spin. -Forrest Brown 9:51 p.m. Romney, I think, has a more ideologically sound Medicare plan. It sounds really nice. It’s a good idea. But he doesn’t deal with the reality that insurance companies price gauge sicker, older patients, and his plan won’t regulate or prevent this. -Russell Bogue 9:55 p.m. A quick note- Romney has been strong in this debate, but notably absent have been the “zingers” we were promised. I was looking forward to some one-liners. -Forrest Brown 9:56 p.m. I think both Romney and obama have made some tactical mistakes, Obama in embracing the term “Obamacare” which is too stigmatized to be an effective tool for him, and Romney in even slightly referencing his healthcare plan in Massachussetts which was the model of “Obamacare” in the first place. -Forrest Brown 9:56 p.m. Even Jim has openly abandoned his own 2-minute system. It’s fast becoming a free-for-all. Aaaaaannd…here comes ObamaCare! Why should businesses have to pay for parents to keep their 26-year-old NOT KIDS on their health coverage? It’s back to the jobs v. personal responsibility debate. Either kids, who really are far too old to be considered kids, are relying on their parents’ health coverage into their mid-20s – or they take responsibility for their own lives and get their own coverage, rather than heaping the costs and regulations on private insurance companies and, therefore, small businesses. -Sam Novack 10:04 p.m. Romney’s distinctions between RomneyCare and ObamaCare are unconvincing. They’re essentially the same thing. -Russell Bogue 10:05 p.m. Both candidates have shown a willingness to twist facts and repeat the same lines used in their advertisements, which sadly is the historical norm in these debates. That’s probably why the historical trend of debates not effecting the election will coninue as well. Look for any shift in the polls tomorrow to quickly dissipate by the end of the week. -Forrest Brown 10:10 p.m. Jim’s questions are really driving me up a wall. “Is there a fundamental difference between you two on Issue X?” Well no duh, Jim! That’s only been the catch-phrase of the campaign. There is a CLEAR CHOICE! Does he expect one of the candidates to say “Whoa there Jim…we’re actually the same on this topic. Let’s take a breather here.”??? -Sam Novack 10:14 p.m. Obama has creepy smiles. Just putting that out there. -Russell Bogue 10:17 p.m. Surprise world! I disagree with Romney! It’s not the state’s job to improve kid’s learning. It’s the PARENT’S job! If a kid doesn’t want to learn, spending infinity on public education isn’t going to save him. Either the parents instill in their child a desire to compete, to succeed, and to learn, or they don’t. It certainly isn’t the government’s job, Mr. President, and Mr. Romney…sorry, not the state’s job either. Mr. Personal Responsibility needs to stick to his guns – I’d have cheered if he’d answered “parents.” -Sam Novack 10:21 p.m. Romney’s embrace of a competition based government may conform to strict capitalist point of view, but it ignores the fact that in many areas, the goal is to have everyone succeed, particularly in education. -Forrest Brown 10:25 p.m. Ah, the token bin Laden reference from Obama. I was waiting for that. I think Romney has better credentials when it comes to reaching bipartisan agreement, but I doubt whether Congressional Republicans will listen even to him. -Russell Bogue 10:28 p.m. Probably a wise choice not to grade yourself, Mr. Moderator. There was almost no guidance on this debate. What I’d like to know is: where were the questions about the riots in the Middle East? This is a big issue, and there if Jim was looking for a stark contrast, he’d be hard-put to find a better one than the one that exists here. The repercussions from this are going to be felt after November, and need to be addressed. As does a Nuclear Iran. Surprised that, in general, foreign policy was left off the table. -Sam Novack 10:28 p.m. In my opinion, Romney won this debate. I don’t agree with many of his ideas and policies, but he was on the attack, he was articulate, and he created observable clash. Obama seemed to stumble through statistics and transmission mechanisms, obscuring his true points. -Russell Bogue 10:31 p.m. Final thoughts- Romney was certainly better prepared for this debate, and his delivery was much crisper and more organized than the President’s. But I don’t think Romney was able to convince enough voters leaning towards Obama that he offers a better choice, because he wasn’t able to match the substance of the President’s plans. I predict a one to two point swing to Romney in the morning that will disappear by Sunday. -Forrest Brown 10:32 p.m. Just like that it is over. 90 minutes, four years — maybe I’ll blog my whole life. When will the moderator become a computer? The more information, the better. -Aaron Eisen 10:34 p.m.