US presidential debate liveblog

Our US blogger Nicky Woolf will be live-blogging the Presidential debate, which starts at 2am UK time. Come back then to join in.

Live feed of the event can be found here: http://www.newstatesman.com/world-affairs/world-affairs/2012/10/watch-us-presidential-debate-live

 


10:35PM

Romney's closing statement: "This is an important election, and I'm concerned about America - about the direction America's been taking in the last four years."

"I will keep America strong," he finishes.

I'm going to give the win for Romney on points. The crowd here at Obama HQ don't seem that fired up. But he's lowered his expectations now; the stories tomorrow will feature a Romney win - but that means Obama is set up for an out-of-the-park hit on foreign policy.

Next up is the Vice-Presidential debate. Ryan vs Biden, on October 11. Could be a good one...

Thank you and goodnight.

 


10:29PM

Obama is closing with a list of his greates hits. "repealed don't ask don't tell, went after al quaeda and bin laden, ended the war in Iraq and Afghanistan."

His closing statement: "Four years ago, we were going through a major crisis. And yet, my faith and confidence in the american future is undiminished; the reason is because of it's people..." he lists examples. "The Auto workers that you meet in Toledo" - cheers from the crowd here in Toledo." He seems rattled.

 


10:23PM

The first new policy proposal of the debate: Romney "I propose we grade our schools... let's let people choose their schools. I've been there: Massachusetts schools are ranked first in the nation."

Meanwhile, Adam Gabbatt drags us kicking and screaming into the 21st century. And a galaxy far away, and a long, long time ago. http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_mbcj5juP8f1rg2rf7o1_500.gif

 


10:18PM

It's taken him a while to get there, but Romney's finally said the G-word. Ladbrokes calls it:

 


10:13PM

As the candidates get technical about pre-existing conditions, Twitter is getting bored.

Next up: the role of government.


10:03PM

A great line from Obama: "the irony is, we've seen [the Obamacare] model before: in Massachusetts!" Romney is havering, defending the difference simply on the matter of bipartisanship.

"We didn't cut medicare," he says. "Of course, we didn't have medicare..." he's playing for time now, mixing up his words. "We have to have a President who can reach across the aisle."

Obama takes the opening. "The fact of the matter is, we used the same advisers. And it's the same plan."

Meanwhile, Jonathan Freedland says what Obama perhaps ought to:

 


10:00PM

Next segment is healthcare - Obamacare, essentially. Here, Jim Lehrer says, he knows there is a clear difference between the two candidates.

Romney making his first attack: on the expense of insurance; and saying that it kills jobs. Obama has little difficulty swatting him away, making the case very ably for the Affordable Care act. "Though I've come to quite like the term [Obamacare]"

 


9:54PM

Mitt Romney admitting that the banking system needs regulation elicits the first grin of the evening from the President that isn't a rictus. He's on safer ground here, and he's capitalising it well. "Governor Romney has said he wants to repeal Dodd-Frank. Roll it back. So the question is: does anybody out there think that the big problem we had was too much regulation and oversight of Wall Street? If you do, Governor Romney is your candidate..."

Point: Obama.

 


9:46PM

Obama appears to be missing the opportunity to pummel Romney on Medicaid and Social Security - especially for picking Ryan, who wanted to eliminate Social Security.

From the Managing Editor of Foreign Policy magazine:

 

"You want to turn Medicare into a voucher program," says Obama. "That's for future people," Romney interrupts. "So if you're 54, 55 - you may want to listen to this," snaps back the President. His first good counterattack.

 


9:40PM

"I've been in business for 25 years, and... I don't know what you're talking about!" exclaims the Governor.

"I maybe need to get a new accountant" is not a line that will serve him well, though.

Segment 3 is Entitlements, coming up.

 


9:35PM

Romney interrupts Obama again. Whatever he's been doing in his debate preps with Rob Portman have been working. I hate to say it, but he's on fire. Obama's sober, serious, academic approach to this is flailing in the face of Romney's passion. Obama needs to get his down-home hat on, double-quick; you can see on his face - Romney's ambushed him.

 


9:30PM

Obama, as the incumbent in a section about the debt and the deficit, is on the back foot - while Romney appears to be on a roll. The challenger is funnier, and looks more human. Obama over-serious, almost staid.  He's talking about Bush - that's how much on the defensive the President is right now.

 


9:22PM

The Twittersphere is critical of Obala's style tonight. The Daily Beast's Andrew Sullivan outlines the problem:

 

Romney looks like he's having fun, while Obama looks like he's finding out that it's tough to be the overdog...

 


9:19PM

"Everything he's just said about my tax plan is inaccurate," says a suddenly outraged Romney. He's trying to paint Obama into a corner of not understanding economic issues - a narrative that suits him. It's working. Romney's on a good run here. "For me this is about jobs," he says.

"For 18 months he's been running on this tax plan," says Obama, "now, he's saying that his big, bold idea is: never mind". He whacks in "it's arithmetic", the line that served Bill Clinton so well in his speech to the DNC.

 


9:11PM

Romney, who people are starting to see as an elitist, is trying to get back some headway on the middle class. "Higher income Americans will be fine whether you're President or I am. It's middle income Americans who are suffering," he says. Interestingly, he doesn't appear to be able to bring himself to say the word "class". He's got his favourite line about gas prices doubling in there, though.

 


9:05PM

The candidates are hitting their topic targets early on. Obama is straight in there with "the auto industry is roaring ahead," while Romney gets quickly on to his promise to be tough on China. 

 


9:02PM

Here are the topics of the six segments: There will be three on the economy, one on healthcare, the role of government, and governance.

The healthcare one is likely to be the interesting one.

"Jobs" is the first topic.


8:58PM

Two minutes to go.

Obama will be looking for any opportunity tonight to drop the "General Motors is alive" line. That's his big vote-winner here in Ohio, where one in every eight jobs depends on the auto industry.

Romney's pitch is more difficult: he has to convince everyone that he has the best ideas to cut the deficit- Obama will press him hard on where the money's coming from, especially alongside Romney's promised tax cuts.

 


8:51PM

One of the field organisers is making a brief pre-debate speech. "Who's voted already?" a few hands are up. "We really want everyone to get out and vote early," she says. Early voting in Ohio opened yesterday, and both parties are pushing people hard to get out and vote early. A vote in the bank is worth two in the bush, or something like that.

 


8:48PM

The New York Times' Nate Silver on just how important Ohio is in this election:

 


8:43PM

A full house here in Toledo campaign HQ, a converted warehouse in downtown - about 60 or 70 people are sat around eating pizza and waiting for the debate to start on a big projector screen. There's an excited buzz.

The debate will work as follows. There will be six topic areas, with 15 minutes spend on each. The moderator - NewsHour's Jim Lehrer - will ask a question, and each candidate will have two minutes to respond, followed by debate over which Lehrer will preside. It's quite free-form; plenty of room for someone to get tripped up if they haven't done their homework.

 


8:37PM

The Guardian, by the way, are life-giffing tonight's debate along with Tumblr. Alex Hern explains the process here, and you can find the Guardian's coverage here.

 


8:30PM

The Guardian's Ewan McAskill agrees with me about Romney:

 

 


8:25PM

As I said when I introduced the New Statesman's Debate Drinking Game earlier today, the President has to be amazing tonight to meet expectations while Romney only has to not screw up to exceed them. Then again, Dandre next to me might be satisfied - Presidential debates can often turn out surprises - such as when Gerald Ford made the incredulous and in the end election-losing comment that there was "no Soviet domination in Eastern Europe"... in 1976. Will there be a surprise like that tonight?

 
 

8:11PM

Hello! I'm here in the Obama for America North-West Ohio headquarters in the auto-industry town of Toledo. There's a good crowd here for the debate. Sat next to me is Dandre, who's ten years old. What excites him about tonight? "To see the President; just to know he's the President," he says. What's he expecting to see tonight? "I don't know. I hope it's a surprise."

You can follow the New Statesman's live blog here, and watch the live feed here: http://www.newstatesman.com/world-affairs/world-affairs/2012/10/watch-us-presidential-debate-live, and I'll be tweeting the debate @NickyWoolf.
 
 
 

 

University of Denver students Zach Gonzales (L) and Dia Mohamed stand in for U.S. President Barack Obama and Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney during a dress rehearsal. Photograph: Getty Images

Nicky Woolf is a writer for the Guardian based in the US. He tweets @NickyWoolf.

Photo: Getty
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The “lunatic” incident showed us the real Owen Smith: and it ain't pretty

Forget the slur - what really matters is what it says about his empty promises, says David Wearing. 

Owen Smith has embarrassed himself again. Having previously called for Labour to “smash” Theresa May “back on her heels”, advocated negotiations with ISIS, and described himself as “normal” with “a wife and three children” while competing with a gay woman to stand for the Labour leadership, you might expect him to have learnt the value of expressing himself more carefully. But no. Not a bit of it.

At a rally on Tuesday evening, Smith described Jeremy Corbyn as a “lunatic” with no “coherent narrative about what’s wrong with Britain”. It’s an interesting choice of words from someone who needs to win over tens of thousands of Corbyn’s supporters if he is to avoid a crushing defeat in this summer’s Labour leadership election. Indeed, we may look back on this as the final nail in the coffin of Smith’s campaign.

Let’s be honest. Most of us at some stage have used casual language like this (“lunatic”, “insane”), to describe those whose rationality we don’t share or understand. I’ll admit to having done so myself. But it is wrong. It perpetuates a stigma around mental illness and damages peoples’ chances of getting the care and support they need from society. We should all cut it out, especially those of us who aspire to high public office.

Beyond this, however, Smith has driven a coach and horses through the central premise of his own campaign. Throughout the summer he has presented himself as substantively agreeing with Corbyn on almost all domestic and economic issues, and only seeking to pursue that agenda more effectively and professionally. He has set out a range of policies - including a £200bn “British New Deal”, workplace rights and more redistributive taxation - that constitute an overt appeal to the social democratic, progressive values of the hundreds of thousands who joined the party to support Corbyn and secure a clean break with the neoliberalism of New Labour.

But it is simply not credible to simultaneously say “I agree with Jeremy” and that Jeremy is a “lunatic”. No one uses the word "lunatic" to describe someone whose politics they basically share. No one says “your diagnosis of the country’s ills is incoherent, and that’s the substantive agenda I want to take forward”. Smith’s remarks indicate that, deep down, he shares the incredulity expressed by so many of his colleagues that anyone would want to abandon the Thatcher-Blair-Cameron “centre ground” of deregulation, privatisation, corporate-empowerment and widening inequality. After all, Corbyn’s narrative only appears incoherent to those who regard the post-1979 status quo as self-evidently the best of all possible worlds - give or take a few policy tweaks - rather than the very essence of “what’s wrong with Britain”.

This incident will confirm the suspicion of many Labour members that, if he did win the leadership, Smith would dilute or ditch most of the policies he has used to try and win their votes. Those fears are well founded. Take as one illustrative example the issue of immigration, where Smith has shown one face to the party while suggesting that he would show quite another to the country, as party leader.

At leadership hustings, Smith presents an enlightened, pro-immigration, anti-xenophobic stance, but in a Newsnight interview last month we saw something rather different.  When asked if there were “too many immigrants” in the UK, he replied that “it depends where you are”, giving official comfort to the post-Brexit “pack your bags” brigade. He asserted that EU migration “definitely caused downward pressure on wages” despite academic studies having repeatedly shown that this is false, and that EU migration is of clear overall benefit to the economy.

Then, calling for an “honest” discussion on immigration, Smith noted that his wife is a school teacher and that schools in their local area are under pressure from “significant numbers into South Wales of people fleeing the Middle East”. In fact, a grand total of 78 people have been resettled in the whole of Wales under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme. In the local authority encompassing Smith’s constituency of Pontypridd, the total number is zero.

This suggests, not someone who shares members’ values, but one who probably regards the leader’s pro-immigration stance as “lunatic”, and would prefer a return to the days when Labour erected the notorious Yarl’s Wood detention camp, rejected the vast majority of asylum applications from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and when Tom Watson put out an election leaflet reading “Labour is on your side, the Lib Dems are on the side of failed asylum seekers”.

Smith’s problem is that his mask keeps slipping. And every time it does, the choice before Labour members comes into sharper focus. On the one hand, they have a man who lacks many of the managerial and communication skills for party leadership, but who shares their values and who they can trust to fight for their agenda until a credible successor can be found. Against him stands a man they may not be able to trust, who may not share their values, and whose claims of professional competence grow more threadbare by the day. It’s a poor choice to be faced with, but Smith is at least making it easier for them.