9:03: And … they’re off, from the Magnus Arena in Denver. May the best candidate win.
9:15: Obama’s off-base on the claim that Romney proposes another $5 trillion in tax cuts. Romney’s right — with deductions reduced, the tax cut would not be anywhere near that large. Of course, Romney hasn’t explained WHICH deductions, and the deductions in play could not eliminate all or close to all of that $5 trillion …
9:22: Romney doing well, I think. Obama on the defensive.
9:31: Obama brings up Romney’s position in the primary that he would not accept $10 in budget cuts for $1 in revenue increases. A telling point.
9:34: Romney again rules out revenue increases absolutely. That makes progress against the deficit and the debt impossible. It makes the scale of cuts in Medicare and Medicaid and other programs, including defense, impossible to sustain. But Obama is not making that argument well.
9:48: Romney put more time into preparation, and it shows. Obama is missing opportunities.
9:51: Romney endorses the need for regulation. He is making the transition from primary to general election that he had not previously made.
9:57: Romney hints at the “death panel” argument, then lauds his own state version of ObamaCare.
10:04: Obama continues to leave opportunities on the table.
10:09: Romney beating on the “death panel” angle. All Obama needs to say is: “Governor, the plan that you implemented in Massachusetts has an identical panel that does the exact same thing.” But he does not.
10:18: Again, Romney better prepared and Obama is oddly passive, failing to strike at his opponent’s vulnerabilities. A strong night for the former governor of Massachusetts. A weak performance by the incumbent.
With Barack Obama holding a sturdy if somewhat narrow lead of three to four points in the polls, and a broader lead in most electoral college projections, he and Republican challenger Mitt Romney meet tonight in Denver for the first of three presidential debates.
Typically, these events have the air of a Vegas prize fight. But having covered a few of those fights, I can tell you that there’s one big difference. In boxing, both camps boast endlessly beforehand about the whupping that their guy is going to put on the unlucky sap across the ring. Political handlers play just the opposite game, trying to underplay their man’s chances.
In recent days, it’s also been interesting to see Romney start to add some details to a previous vacuum of specifics, revealing that as president he would honor the two-year waiver granted to illegal immigrants brought here as children, and that he would limit more affluent taxpayers to $17,000 in deductions to at least partially offset his proposed 20 percent reduction in tax rates. I suspect that debate preparations convinced his camp that going into tonight without such details would have left him too exposed.
So stay tuned.
– Jay Bookman