UPDATE at 9:07: Romney is just plain lying there about his plans for the Pell grant program, as I’ve documented earlier. He also likes to cite that scholarship program in Massachusetts, without saying he would do anything like that here at home.
But neither candidate knocks this question from the worried college student out of the park, by any means.
UPDATE at 9:10: A more aggressive Obama says Romney doesn’t have a five-point economic plan, he has a one-point plan: Help the rich. A major point that Obama failed to make the first time around.
UPDATE at 9:18: Obama mentions Romney’s previous critical statements about coal use, contrasts it to his current plan. Romney trying to play alpha dog; this could get interesting.
UPDATE at 9:22: Romney mentions that gasoline used to be $1.85 a gallon; Obama reminds him that it collapsed to that level because of an economic collapse under GOP leadership and policies. A trap that Romney walked into.
UPDATE at 9:28: Both of these guys are pandering to the middle class by offering tax cuts, while claiming to be concerned about the deficit. They are contradictory positions. In their defense, however, they are saying the only thing that most Americans will accept.
UPDATE at 9:31: Romney says the affluent will continue to pay the same share of taxes. The middle class will pay less. So again … who’s going to pay more? The poor?
UPDATE at 9:35: I can’t say yet whether Obama is beating Romney in this debate. I can say for certain that Obama is beating the hell out of the Obama who showed up in Denver.
UPDATE at 9:50: Mitt struggles with question on how he differs from President Bush. Obama handles it very well; points out that on social issues and immigration Romney is much more conservative than Bush ever was.
UPDATE at 9:59: Mitt gets a chance to deliver his critique of the Obama economic record. He recites it well, but the CNN uncommitted voters don’t seem impressed by it.
UPDATE at 10:12: Obama gets a tough-worded question on Libya. Obama ducks it. He answered the question that he wanted to answer, not the question he got. Obama also should have mentioned that Romney accused him of sympathizing with the terrorists who attacked our people.
Romney tosses in “apology tour” and “leading from behind.” I just don’t think those things work. I also think he took the low road on Libya, and I’m doubtful it played well.
FINAL UPDATE: As I note above, Obama had a much better performance tonight than in Denver. He was effective in delivering the messages that he wanted to deliver, and saving that “47 percent” critique for the closing was well done.
Romney also performed well. He wasn’t as dominant as in the first debate, but that can be attributed to the fact that he had an engaged opponent this time. Overall, though, I think it was an Obama victory, mainly because Obama was able to hit the themes he needed to hit, the themes that he faltered on two weeks ago. If he had done this in Denver, he would still have a decent lead.
On the eve of the first presidential debate on Oct. 3, Gallup had Barack Obama up by four points, Nate Silver at fivethirtyeight gave Mitt Romney just a 13 percent chance of winning the election and Republicans were reduced to whining that the polls were being skewed against them in some kind of conspiracy.
Ninety minutes in Denver changed all that and more.
After a poor debate performance by Obama and a strong performance by Romney, it’s now the Republican who enjoys a four-point Gallup margin, and Democrats who are looking around for an explanation of just what happened to a once-safe lead. In fact, Obama now finds himself in much the same position as Romney in the first debate, needing a good showing to retain the faith of his party’s base and tamp down growing concerns about November.
I expect we’ll hear a lot tonight from Obama about Romney’s most recent shape-shifting from “severely conservative” to harmless moderate. Romney in turn will probably highlight the Libyan assassination and its aftermath as an example of the failure of the administration’s foreign policy. And then there’s the townhall format, which adds a soupçon of unpredictability to the affair.
The bottom line is, Obama’s hopes for a second term probably can’t survive another showing like that last one. And while I think he’ll do fine, I wouldn’t want to bet $10,000 on it.
– Jay Bookman