Live feed of the event can be found here: http://www.newstatesman.com/world-affairs/world-affairs/2012/10/watch-us-presidential-debate-live
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.
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 "repealed don't ask don't tell, went after al quaeda and bin laden, ended the war in Iraq and Afghanistan."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.
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
It's taken him a while to get there, but Romney's finally said the G-word. Ladbrokes calls it:
— Ladbrokes Politics (@LadPolitics) October 4, 2012
As the candidates get technical about pre-existing conditions, Twitter is getting bored.
This is so riveting I popped an Ambien
— Alex Hannaford (@AlHannaford) October 4, 2012
Next up: the role of government.
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:
The sheer gall of a Republican blaming Obama for Republican intransigence
— Jonathan Freedland (@j_freedland) October 4, 2012
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]"
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..."
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:
Obama probably kicking himself under the podium for passing up a chance to hit Romney on Social Security. Puzzling.
— Blake Hounshell (@blakehounshell) October 4, 2012
"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.
"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.
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.
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.
The Twittersphere is critical of Obala's style tonight. The Daily Beast's Andrew Sullivan outlines the problem:
Man, Obama is boring and abstract. He's putting us to sleep. I get his points but he is entirely wonky tonight. And he is on the defensive.
— Andrew Sullivan (@sullydish) October 4, 2012
Romney looks like he's having fun, while Obama looks like he's finding out that it's tough to be the overdog...
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The New York Times' Nate Silver on just how important Ohio is in this election:
Ohio, just by itself, now has a 40% chance of determining the Electoral College winner. About as important as next 4 states combined.
— Nate Silver (@fivethirtyeight) October 4, 2012
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.
The Guardian's Ewan McAskill agrees with me about Romney:
Thousands of journalists waiting for Denver debate desperate to write race tightens.If Rom half-decent,can expect favourable write-up.
— Ewen MacAskill (@ewenmacaskill) October 4, 2012
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?
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."