Updated at 10:35 p.m.: Let’s put it this way: Barack Obama’s listless — maybe rusty is the better word — performance this evening puts a great deal of pressure on Vice President Joe Biden next week when he debates U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan.
Mitt Romney gave his campaign the best news it’s had in six weeks and more, and if nothing else, certainly will stop the panic in GOP ranks that we’ve seen.
Updated at 10:11 p.m.: A confident Mitt Romney goes personal: “Mr. President, you’re entitled to your own plane and your own house, but not your own facts.”
The topic was education, but he segued into an attack on Obama’s support for “green energy.”
Updated at 10:11 p.m.: Obama finally lands one — by pointing to Romney’s vagueness on amending Dodd-Frank, elimination of tax deductions and replacing “Obamacare.”
“Does he think it might be too good for middle-class Americans?” Obama asks.
Updated at 10:07 p.m.: If the folks at the Barkley Forum are right, and presentation and confidence is the key to winning a debate, your only victor tonight can be Mitt Romney. Barack Obama’s hesitation, his constantly bowed head, and that one leg cocked behind the other doesn’t bespeak an aggressive stance.
Updated at 9:50 p.m.: Barack Obama launches an attack on Mitt Romney on Medicare, but it lacks force — and Romney dodges the direct question from Jim Lehrer: Do you support a conversion to a voucher system? I oppose any changes to current retirees or those near retirement, Romney says.
Updated at 9:40 p.m.: Biggest difference between the two tonight: Mitt Romney just rejected the Simpson-Bowles approach to federal deficit reduction — i.e., a combination of entitlement reduction and revenue increases. Barack Obama says he’ll go there.
Updated at 9:30 p.m.: Here’s a thought: Mitt Romney could be said to have won the first bout of this debate, and yet still be declared the loser — because Barack Obama has taken the debate into such detail that he’s putting a national audience to sleep.
Updated at 9:22 p.m.: I have to give the first 20 minutes to Romney, who is on the attack, and focused. Obama is getting himself bogged down in a detailed defense of himself.
Updated at 9:17 p.m.: Says Romney: “I’ve got five boys. I’m used to people saying things that aren’t true.” Say it ain’t so, Tagg.
Updated at 9:11 p.m.: Romney disputes Obama’s accusation that he’ll run up deficit with tax cuts, says he’s not going to reduce the share of taxes paid by high-income Americans. Middle-class Americans are paying “an economy tax.”
“I’m not looking to cut massive taxes….My principle is there will be no tax cut that adds to the deficit,” he says. “Any language to the contrary is not accurate.”
Says Obama: Romney “has been asked a hundred times” about what loopholes he’ll close. And he hasn’t answered.
Romney overrides Lehrer to respond. A sign of aggressiveness.
Updated at 9:07 p.m.: Good start for Romney. Congratulates Obama on his marriage — declaring himself an unsuitable romantic partner, then opens with a vignette about a troubled woman in Ohio who was losing her home.
Updated at 9:03 p.m.: Jim Lehrer introduces himself, promises to draw out differences. Obama and Romney start out with the awkward handshake.
First question: Jobs.
Obama says to his wife: “Next year, sweetie, I promise we won’t be celebrating in front of 40 million people.” But crowd has been ordered silent. It falls flat. Then he begins his answer.
“Economic patriotism” is his key phrase.
Updated at 8:55 p.m.: Just saw Ann Romney take a cleansing breath. As for Michelle Obama — oddly, five years drops off her face when she’s worried. She looks younger.
Updated at 8:25 p.m.: Hearing much talk on cable TV about the need for Mitt Romney to be liked tonight. Anyone who’s ever met the in-laws for the first time know what a high bar that is.
What Romney needs is a three-debate likeability strategy: Respect me, trust me, then like me.
Updated at 8:05 p.m.: Meanwhile, on Fox News, Bill O’Reilly just wondered whether Mitt Romney should bring up that 2007 video of Barack Obama that conservatives have been highlighting all day.
O’Reilly wants “rowdy.”
Don’t think so.
Updated at 7:45 p.m.: Sick of the hype? Me, too.
The biggest decision over the next 90 minutes will be what network to tune into for this first presidential debate in Denver.
CNN? Too many bells and whistles. They’ve all but offered to attach me to a galvanometer to measure my reaction. PBS is a possibility, given that the moderator is Jim Lehrer. His 12th presidential debate.
And what am I looking for? The focus has been on what the debate means to Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. I’ll be looking for news.
Since early this summer, U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss and his bipartisan Gang of Six have been urging the Commission on Presidential Debates to press these two candidates on a “grand deal” to address a $16 trillion deficit.
For Obama, that means addressing entitlement cuts. For Romney, that means increases in federal revenue – whether a tax hike or closed loopholes.
Neither candidate has gone there. If one or the other does, that’s a headline.
Ladies and gentlemen:
This will be the spot where we’ll discuss tonight’s lights-out, Denver cage match between President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
Bookmark it and and come back and 9 p.m. We’ll be happy to have your comments. In the meantime, we post this brief list of things to watch for compiled by the Associated Press:
1. ROMNEY MAKES HIS MOVE: He needs to re-energize his campaign after slipping in the polls. Can he do it by going on attack? Watch for Romney to lay into Obama’s policies with gusto while trying to avoid getting too personal with his criticism, which could backfire. Obama needs to stay calm and hold his ground.
2. OBAMA ON DEFENSE: He’s stuck trying to defend a painfully slow economic recovery. Can a sitting president sell the idea that he knows how to make the next four years better than his first four? Or does Obama mostly try to divert attention by slamming Romney’s economic plans?
3. ABOUT THAT 47 PERCENT: Romney faces his biggest audience yet in the wake of his remarks about “47 percent of Americans.” He’ll try to dispel the notion that he’s uncaring toward people who depend on government benefits or don’t pay income tax. Can he recast his remarks as a critique of an economy that leaves so many needing food stamps and unemployment checks?
4. HOW THEY SAY IT: Watch for a clumsy gesture or errant look that says more than words — remember Al Gore sighing, George H.W. Bush checking his watch. Listen for tone of voice, too. Does Obama come across as arrogant or aloof? Does Romney seem awkward or out of touch? Did that zinger sound natural — or forced? Humor is welcome relief, but it’s tricky to pull off.
5. A SURPRISE: They try to prepare for every scenario, but something will catch the candidates off guard. That’s the telling moment. How well do they respond? Romney occasionally lost his cool with GOP primary opponents. Obama tends to lapse into long-winded answers and troublesome phrasing. Will either man be flustered into a mistake?
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider