US presidential debate liveblog

Verdict: a win for Obama has Romney imploded over Libya.

 

10:48PM

I'm going to give this one to Obama. Even without his opponent's implosion on what should have been his greatest weapon - Libya - the President was assured and calm, but aggressive too. My only caveat is that viewers may respond poorly to interruptions - but those were balanced by Romney's constant whining about how much time he had.

CBS's snap-poll has Obama winning, by 37% to 30%, with 33% saying it was a tie. More polls will be coming in over the next 24 hours.

 


10:40PM

The final question is a doozy. “What do you believe is the biggest misperception that the American people have about you as a man and a candidate. Debunk those misperceptions.”

Predictably, though, the candidates pay only lip-service to it and instead take the opportunity to make their own summings-up.

MR “Thank you. It seems that some campaigns are attacking a single person. In the course of that, I think the President's campaign has tried to paint me as someone different than who I am.” He tries to address the hidden video footage of him. “I care about 100 per cent of the American people.”

Then he goes on a quick-fire bullet-point list of his experiences.

“I spent my life in the private sector, not in government. I want to make my experience help people. … I am a man of god. I was a missionary for my church. I served as a pastor for my church. .. As Governor, I was able to get almost everyone insured. … Our schools were number one in the country.”

He ends: “If I become President, I'll get America working again. - I've done these things.

Obama spends even less time on the question: “I think a lot of this campaign has been devoted to this notion that I think government creates jobs. That's not what I believe. I believe the free enterprise system is the greatest engine of prosperity the world has eve known. But I also believe that everyone should have a shot, everyone should have a fair chance.”

He saves the 47 percent answer for the very end. “I believe Romney's a good man. Loves his family, cares about his faith. But I also beliuve that when he said that 47 percent of the country believe themselves victims, think about who he was talking about. Veterans. Students. Soldiers overseas, fighting for us right now.

He ends: “And I want to fight for them. That's why I'm asking for your vote.”

 


10:35PM

Final questions, the second-last on China.

"Macs, iphones are all manufactured in China because labour is so cheap. How can we persuade to come back?"

Romney: "The answer is very straightforward. We can compete with anyone, as long as the playing field is level. China has been holding down their currency, cheating. We have to make Ameica attractive for entrepreneurs."

Obama is less optimistic in tone: "There are some jobs that are not going to come back. I want hi-wage-hi-skilled jobs. That's why we have to invest in advanced manufacturing. When we talk about deficits, if we're adding to our def for tax cuts on people who don't need them, and we're cutting down on education for the people who will invent things - we will lose that race."


10:27PM

Blake Hounshell, the Managing Editor of Foreign Policy magazine, is astonished.

 


10:20PM

A great line from Obama. “The suggestion that anybody in my team would play politics or mislead, is offensive, Governor. That's not what we do. That's not what I do.”

But now, in what is perhaps the deftest political move of the campaign, and certainly the pivotal moment of the debate, Obama lays a trap for Mitt Romney, talking about a speech he gave in the Rose Garden the day after the debate where he referred to the Benghazi attack as “terrorist.”

“Can we have that for the record?” says a triumphant Romney. “Can we have on the record that he said that?”

Obama doesn't even have to spring is trap himself. As Romney advances on Crowley, Obama sits back, with a grin on his face like the Cheshire cat.

“He did say that, actually,” says Crowley. Romney blusters and recovers, but his confidence is shot.

 


10:15PM

Libya question. “Who was it denied the requested extra security at the embassies?” This is the danger question for Obama, but he fields it deftly.

“Noone is more concerned about the safety of our ambassadors than I am,” says Obama. He claims to have given an instruction to 'beef up' the embassy security. He promises to “find out what happens, and everybody will be held accountable.”

“You don't turn national security in to a political issue, he says to Romney, attacking him for sending the press release on the day of the embassy attacks.

“I think the President just said correctly that the buck does stop at his desk, and he takes responsibility for what happened,” says Romney snidely. “ But I find it more troubling that the day after the assassination, when apparently we didn't know what happened, the President flies to Las Vegas for a political fundraiser. … These actions, taken by a President, have symbolic significance.”

“This was an attack by terrorists, and it calls into question the President's whole policy in the Middle East,” he says, echoing Paul Ryan's words, “what we are witnessing on our TV screens is the unravelling of the Obama foreign policy.”

But attacking him for attending a fundraiser is a low blow.

 


10:09PM

“Mr President, have you looked at your pension?” Romney outbursts. “Have you looked at your pension? You have investments in Chinese companies too.” The two are up in each others' faces again. “I haven't looked at my pension recently, says Obama, “it's not as big as yours, it doesn't take as long.”

 

The candidates are sniping at each other hard now, both shouting at once.


10:06PM

"Let's speak to the issue of self-deportation," Crowley says to Romney. "No. No, no," he answers tetchily.

 


10:00PM

New question for Romney, on immigration. "Let me step back and tell you what I want to do broadly. This is a nation of immigrants. We welcome people coming as immigrants. We welcome legal immigrants. I want it to be streamlined, I want it to be clear. I also think that we should give green cards to people who graduate with skills that we need. People around the world who gradiate in science and math get a green card stapled to their diploma," he answers.

"I will not grant amnesty to those who have come here illegally. I will not give drivers licences to those here illegaly. The kids of those who come here illegally, those kids should have a pathway to become a resident."

"We need to fix a broken immigration system, and I've done everything I can on my own to do so," says the President. "I've sought assistance from congress too. We want to streamline the immigration system. ... We do have to deal with our border, so we've put more border patrol on than at any time in history, but if we're going after people who are here illegally, we should do it smartly. Go after criminals."

 


9:51PM

The next question is on the differences between Bush and Romney, from a supposedly-undecided voter who starts with "I fear Republicans"...

"Bush never suggested turning medicare into a voucher - Bush embraced comprehensive immigration reform," answers Obama.

 


9:44PM

A question about equal pay for women is hijacked by Twitter for an unfortunate turn of phrase by the Governor, in which he claimed to have "binders full of women". The phrase immediately floods the social networking site.

 


9:39PM

The Washington Post's Ezra Klein is unimpressed by Romney's tax promises.

 


9:36PM

Romney is standing very awkwardly as Obama plays the Big Bird card, about Romney's proposed cutting of PBS. Obama is certainly winning the body-language war. Crowley is asking Romney questions and he's standing in front of her, arms held in front of him, like a schoolboy being ticked off by his headmistress, while Obama looks relaxed and happy.

 


9:33PM

Candy Crowley is the best moderator so far. She's allowing a lively - very, very lively - debate, but taking no nonsense from the candidates either, and favouring neither of them.

 


9:28PM

A tax question for Romney, on child tax credit and education credits. Are they important to him? "I want to bring the rates down, and simplify the tax code, and get middle income taxpayers to have lower taxes," he says. But how is he planning to do it? 

"No capital gains tax on anyone earning under $200,000," he promises. But how is he going to pay for it?

Obama's up, and he's echoing Romney on cutting taxes on the middle classes, and promising tax cuts on small businesses. "But if we're serious about reducing the deficit," he says, "we've also got to make sure that the wealthy do a little bit more." Every Democrat watching is wishing he'd turn to Romney and ask one question: "How, Governor Romney, are you going to pay for it?"

 


9:20PM

Price of gas is the question.

"Very little of what Governor Romney just said was true," says Obama, attacking Romney's proposal of coal as an energy alternative. That's far further than Obama ever went in the last debate in terms of attacking the arguments of his opponent. Romney's on the attack as well. "That's not what you've done in the last 4 years. "Not true governor Romney."

Both candidates are now standing. Are they going to fight? Romney tries to interrupt, Obama talks over him: "what you're saying is just not true."

One thing is true. This debate is a million, billion miles away from the previous.

 


9:14PM

 

“You said I said we should take Detroid bankrupt”, says Romney angrily. “You DID take Detroit through bankruptcy. You did exactly what I recommended!” This is actually a good point. Obama's attack ads, of which – especially in Ohio – there have been a hell of a lot, don't quite go into the complex differences between the two's plans – which was more about exactly how those bankruptcies should be managed.

 

He smirks at Obama.

 

“Governor Romney doesnt have a 5-point plan, he has a 1-point plan. That's to make sure people at the top play by different rules.” The President's answer is a slight dodge – but his style, this time, is bang on.

 

“That detroit answer – way off the mark,” interrupts Romney petulantly. Obama smiles. He knows he's doing better. This is an entirely different President from two weeks ago.

 


9:09PM

Obama's learned his debate-lessons well. He's looking up, smiling - not Biden-style, but smiling. "It's 100% better," says Debbie Welly, one of the family with whom I'm watching. "So much better."

He's looking Presidential.

 


9:07PM

First question is on college prospects. "The key thing is to make sure you can get a job when you get out of school," says Romney, deftly moving the question onto his home ground. "I know what it takes to create good jobs again."

"I presume I'm going to be President."

"Your future is bright," says Obama. "I want to build on the 5 million jobs we created in the last 15 months alone. ... I want to build manufacturing jobs. Governor Romney said he wanted to let Detroit go bankrupt..."

 


9:02PM

The audience are all uncommitted voters - organisers say they hope to get 13 questions in this evening. On previous performance, we'll be lucky to see 8 or 9. Expect the crucial Benghazi Embassy question to come early.

Tie-fans: Barack is wearing dark red, Romney striped blue.

 


8:53PM

This analysis of poll-bounces after debates by the New York Times' Nate Silver is excellent.

http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/16/no-guarantee-of-obama-rebound-in-second-debate/?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

 


8:40PM

The onus will be on President Obama tonight to improve upon his performance on October 3. The expectations game is a really tough one. On the one hand, Obama has to be more assertive than he was last time in order for Romney not to seem like the more dominant, optimistic and passionate candidate - no more looking down proffessorially and taking notes for the President. However, Obama must also avoid being as aggressive as Joe Biden was in the Vice-Presidential debate in order not to come off as rude or arrogant. This is an incredibly tough tightrope to walk.

The debates are much rawer and unprotected moments for the candidates than the rest of the campaigns. Romney is not to be underestimated. He's charming, quick, and evidently unafraid of abandoning his previous policy positions in order to score debate-points - a luxury an incumbent doesn't have.

It's going to be a tense night for President Obama, which is unfortunate - because the best way for him to win is for him to look like he's enjoying himself. Which, I think, is hard for the President.

 


8:33PM

 

This debate is a little different from the last one, as it's formatted as a town hall-style meeting. That means the candidates will be responding from questions from the audience - though microphone cut-offs (as agreed earlier in the depressingly detailed Memorandum of Understanding between the two candidates) will prevent audience members hassling the candidates for answers a la Question Time. The Memorandum provides, among other things, for TV cameras to be "locked in place", though "able to tilt".

Tonight, the candidates will be seated "on director chairs (with backs), before the audience which shall be seated in approximately a horseshoe arrangement as symetrically as possible around the candidates."

The moderator, Candy Crowley, is CNN's chief political correspondent.

 

 


8:30PM

 

Hello and welcome to the New Statesman's live-blog of the second Presidential debate.

Obama and Romney during the debate. Photograph: Getty Images

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

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
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Roy Hattersley: Labour is far closer to extinction now than in the 1980s

 If the takeover of the party by the far-left succeeds there will be no opportunity to rescue it from the wilder shores of socialism, says the former deputy leader.

The comparison with the Eighties is irresistible but misconceived. Labour is far closer to extinction as a major party than it was 35 years ago. That is not because Jeremy Corbyn is incapable of leading the party to victory — although he is. Nor is it because his supporters threaten the political assassination of anyone who says so — although they do. It is because, for the first time in its history, Labour is in real danger of a permanent domination by the unrepresentative and unelectable left.

All the other regular crises in the party’s history — German rearmament, nuclear disarmament, the defection of the Gang of Four to found the SPD — were resolved by mistakes being rectified, resolutions reversed and Labour resuming its place in the mainstream of British politics. Nor was there any genuine risk that the infiltrators from the far left would play a decisive part in national policy making. The Militant Tendency controlled municipal politics in Liverpool and attempted, with mixed success, to unseat vulnerable mainstream MP’s. But there was no possibility of them subverting the whole party. Now the far left operating through Momentum  aspires to make a decisive, and irreversible shift in Labour’s core ideology by initiating a purge of mainstream Labour MPs and a cull of headquarters office staff, reducing the part that the parliamentary party plays in choosing the leader and making the election manifesto the preserve of the annual conference. If the putsch — described by its instigators as an extension of party democracy — succeeds, there will be no opportunity for a latter day Neil Kinnock to rescue Labour from the wilder shores of socialism and the odds on its survival lengthen.

The crisis could have been averted. The parliamentary party  with the exception of a handful of residual Blairites  is ready for some sort of compromise. That is why, three weeks ago, it gave its overwhelming support to the proposal that the shadow cabinet should be elected by Labour MPs rather than chosen by the leader. The change was intended to allow an honourable return to the front bench for the shadow ministers who resigned in the spring. As a move towards unity, it is no more than papering over the cracks but better that than gaping fractures. Although Corbyn had neither the sense nor the grace immediately to accept the gesture of conciliation, the choice between an uneasy peace and continued guerrilla warfare still lies with him. If — as his victory speech suggests — he regards last Saturday’s victory as a mandate to impose his sectarian will on the party, the battle is likely end with mutual self-destruction.

Even if Jeremy Corbin succeeds in his attempts to create a permanent far-left hegemony, the Labour Party is unlikely to split as it did 30 years ago . The fate of the SDP — absorption into a Liberal Party which kept the Tory-led coalition in office or defiant independence that ended in the ignominy of polling fewer by-election votes than the Monster Raving Loony Party — has dampened enthusiasm for a breakaway movement. Nor are there charismatic potential leaders who stand ready to lead their followers into battle in the way that Roy Jenkins and David Owen (the Fidel Castro and Che Guevara of social democracy) marched a dozen Labour MPs into the valley of political death. But a futile attempt to form a new party would at least imply the hope of some sort ofresurrection. The more likely outcome would be the product of pure despair — the parliamentary Labour party would not divide and instead would begin slowly to disintegrate.

If the worst happens some Labour MPs will suddenly discover previously undetected virtues in Corbyn and Corbynism and line up behind him. Others will grow weary of being abused by local extremists and fade away. Contrary to public opinion, most MPs could earn more from less demanding jobs outside parliament. The politically dedicated, determined to be candidates in the next election, will accept the challenge of reselection. More will succeed than fail, but the harm to the party’s reputation will be immense.

One feature of the 1980 desertion will certainly be replicated. When the Gang of Four defected, the damage done by the loss of glamorous leadership was more than matched by the loss of hard working membership. If Labour MPs begin to believe that the battle for reason and recovery is no longer worth fighting the disenchantment will become infectious. Jeremy Corbyn’s devotees would still turn out for the rallies. But the enthusiasm with which they would tramp the streets on rainy nights, or spend boring weekends telephoning target voters, is in doubt. Reliance on the notion that the election can be won online is the refuge of politicians who either have not identified or do not understand the floating voters.

The haemorrhage has already begun — increased by the behaviour of recently recruited Corbynites who do not seem to have heard that their hero has an olive tree outside his office door. All over the country they are bullying and filibustering their way into the control of local parties — excoriating mainstream members, manipulating the rules of debate and postponing votes until late in the evening. Of course, the men and women who oppose them could play the same game. But they are, by their nature, reasonable people and they want to lead reasonable lives. That is why they represent the sort of Labour Party with which voters can identify. 

Unfortunately, many of the Labour MPs who should have led the campaign to recreate an electable party have spent the last year either sulking or complaining. They have been anti Corbyn but pro very little. Owen Smith’s leadership campaign ended in disaster not because of the size of the incumbent’s votes but because of the challenger’s failure to set out an alternative vision of the society that socialists hope to create. Angela Eagle would have won fewer votes, but she would come closer to reassuring party members that "moderates" (a deadening description which should be abandoned) have principles and policies. A campaign that relied on nothing except the obvious truth that Jeremy Corbyn would lead Labour to defeat was doomed from the start. A majority of the party members who joined before 2015 voted for Smith. Think of how many more would have done the same had he offered them more to vote for than disapproval of his opponent.

Corbyn, and many of the Corbynites, are unmoved by the evidence that they are heading straight to defeat. That is, in part, because Corbyn himself is in what psychiatrists call “total denial.” There were times last year when he seemed to be implementing a carefully coordinated plan to alienate all the middle-of-road voters on whose support a Labour victory depends. He has proposed the unilateral abandonment of the British nuclear deterrent, refused to back Britain’s continued membership of the European Single Market and defended his historic association with apologists for terrorism — all items on the curriculum vitae of a Labour leader who might have been invented by Conservative Central Office. No political leader in British history has been so careless about his party’s prospects at the ballot box. But that is only one of the reasons why the threat of defeat will do little to halt the party's leftward gallop.

There is, within the ranks of Corbyn supporters, a substantial number of activists who — since they do not believe that parliamentary democracy can create the socialist Utopia of their dreams — regard the election of a Labour Government as an irrelevance. Indeed they believe that a prolonged period of Tory misrule will bring forward the day when a spontaneous uprising will herald the new dawn. It is near to inconceivable that Corbyn believes in such millenarian nonsense. But he appear to subscribe to the equally fatuous view that the first task is to make Labour a genuinely socialist party and that winning elections can wait until it is accomplished.

That is clearly the view of those correspondents to the New Statesman who complain about Corbyn’s critics obsession with what they call “electablity”. It is easy for their cynics to sneer about putting power before principle, but winning is a matter of principle too. Labour exists to make those changes in society which can only be achieved in power. In 2016 the fight — to quote the former Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell in 1962 — is less about saving “the party we love” than about rescuing the nation from long years of  Tory bigotry. To behave in a way which diminishes — indeed for a time extinguishes — Labour’s chance of fulfilling its historic purpose is worse than self indulgent. It is betrayal.

There are major figures in the current drama of the Labour Party whose attitude towards the prospect of government is both inexcusable and incomprehensible. Chief among them is Len McCluskey, the general secretary of Unite and a man whose every bombastic television appearance is worth thousands of votes to the Tories. The members he represents have the strongest possible vested interest in a Labour victory at the next election. Yet many of his policies and pronouncements — particularly his risibly unsuccessful attempts to bully MPs into supporting Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership — contribute to the Conservatives’ opinion poll lead and increases the danger of massive defeat at the next election turning into total destruction.

Anyone who doubts that Labour could be reduced to the status of the Liberal Democrats or the Greens — struggling for influence without even hoping for power — should be sent to canvas for the party in Scotland. But the near oblivion north of the border is not yet inevitable in the south. Recovery will take time and before Labour can begin effectively to deal with the challenges from outside the party it must struggle back into the mainstream of politics — a process which has to begin with an acceptance that Jeremy Corbyn’s first election was more than a combination of the Peasants’ Revolt and the Children’s Crusade. For many of the men and women who voted for the first time in 2015 his victory represented the end of a decade of disillusion. At first they had felt no more than disappointment at opportunities that successive Blair Governments missed — their delight in the landslide victory of 1997 fading away until it was finally extinguished on the battlefields of Iraq.

The Peak District village in which I live is home to more Labour party members than the tourists may imagine. Two of them  —  a retired bank manager and an emeritus professor of cardiac surgery — voted for Corbyn in 2015. In part they were motivated by a desire to “give socialism a chance for once.” But they also thought that they were drawing a line under the years of “the third way” and triangulation. New Labour, in which they had once devoutly believed, had come to mean private enterprise edging its way into the health service, the surreptitious extension of secondary selection and light regulation of the City of London. Jeremy Corbyn, like the Scottish National Party, has much to thank Tony Blair for.

For some people Jeremy Corbyn was, like Donald Trump and Marine LePen, a welcome alternative to the politics of the establishment. To many more he was, by the very nature of his unelectability, the antidote to the opportunism which they (wrongly) believe characterises life in Westminster. Now, a mainstream candidate for the Labour leadership will have to make clear that they are guided not by opinion polls but by a vision of a new and better society. The next leader must concentrate every nerve and sinew on winning, but they must have faith in their ability to carry the country for reasonable revolution.

Unfortunately the members of the Labour mainstream are notoriously reticent about  discussing first principles. They find talk of “the vision thing” embarrassing and believe that the task which faces them is too obvious to need justification by any “fancy theories.” Yet there is a great body of work — by the likes of TH Green, RH Tawney. Anthony Crosland and John Rawls — which set out the theory of democratic socialism and descriptions of why it is especially relevant today – Joseph E Stiglitz’s The Price of Inequality and The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett — abound. The recovery of reason has to begin with Chukka Umuuna explaining the virtues of equality, Yvette Cooper describing Britain’s obligations to the developing world and Dan Jarvis defining the role of the state in protecting the weak against the strong. Or any of them talking about what they stand for instead of assuming that their convictions are taken for granted. The Daily Mail might not report their speeches, but moderate party members will treat the related Fabian Society pamphlets like water in the desert.

If, as they must, the reasonable majority of Labour MPs choose to stay and fight, they have to organise — inside the parliamentary party and, more importantly in the constituencies. I have spent much recent time insisting, to sceptical friends that the occupants of the opposition back benches are as competent and committed as were members of any of the governments, or shadow governments, in which I served. But I do not even try to argue that they are as active as my contemporaries once were in reclaiming the party. Success and survival depends on the constant demonstration that reasonable radicals still have a home in the Labour Party.  

One refugee from Corbyn’s original shadow cabinet assured me that like-minded Labour MPs do occasionally meet. When I asked what they discussed, I was told that they “wait for something to turn up.” But, something will only turn up if it is prepared and promoted by the men and women who have the courage and commitment to lead Labour out of the wilderness. The journey will be long and hard and there can be no guarantee of arrival at the desired destination. But those of us who believe that Labour can still provide the best prospect of a more equal society have to begin the trek toward the promised land — and we need to set out straight away.

Roy Hattersley was deputy leader of the Labour Party from 1983 to 1992.