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:



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 "repealed don't ask don't tell, went after al quaeda and bin laden, ended the war in Iraq and Afghanistan."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.



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



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

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:



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..."

Point: Obama.



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.



"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:


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:



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, 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.



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




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."

You can follow the New Statesman's live blog here, and watch the live feed here:, 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 reporting for the New Statesman from the US. He tweets @NickyWoolf.

Photo: Getty Images
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The buck doesn't stop with Grant Shapps - and probably shouldn't stop with Lord Feldman, either

The question of "who knew what, and when?" shouldn't stop with the Conservative peer.

If Grant Shapps’ enforced resignation as a minister was intended to draw a line under the Mark Clarke affair, it has had the reverse effect. Attention is now shifting to Lord Feldman, who was joint chair during Shapps’  tenure at the top of CCHQ.  It is not just the allegations of sexual harrassment, bullying, and extortion against Mark Clarke, but the question of who knew what, and when.

Although Shapps’ resignation letter says that “the buck” stops with him, his allies are privately furious at his de facto sacking, and they are pointing the finger at Feldman. They point out that not only was Feldman the senior partner on paper, but when the rewards for the unexpected election victory were handed out, it was Feldman who was held up as the key man, while Shapps was given what they see as a relatively lowly position in the Department for International Development.  Yet Feldman is still in post while Shapps was effectively forced out by David Cameron. Once again, says one, “the PM’s mates are protected, the rest of us shafted”.

As Simon Walters reports in this morning’s Mail on Sunday, the focus is turning onto Feldman, while Paul Goodman, the editor of the influential grassroots website ConservativeHome has piled further pressure on the peer by calling for him to go.

But even Feldman’s resignation is unlikely to be the end of the matter. Although the scope of the allegations against Clarke were unknown to many, questions about his behaviour were widespread, and fears about the conduct of elections in the party’s youth wing are also longstanding. Shortly after the 2010 election, Conservative student activists told me they’d cheered when Sadiq Khan defeated Clarke in Tooting, while a group of Conservative staffers were said to be part of the “Six per cent club” – they wanted a swing big enough for a Tory majority, but too small for Clarke to win his seat. The viciousness of Conservative Future’s internal elections is sufficiently well-known, meanwhile, to be a repeated refrain among defenders of the notoriously opaque democratic process in Labour Students, with supporters of a one member one vote system asked if they would risk elections as vicious as those in their Tory equivalent.

Just as it seems unlikely that Feldman remained ignorant of allegations against Clarke if Shapps knew, it feels untenable to argue that Clarke’s defeat could be cheered by both student Conservatives and Tory staffers and the unpleasantness of the party’s internal election sufficiently well-known by its opponents, without coming across the desk of Conservative politicians above even the chair of CCHQ’s paygrade.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.