6:02 PM- BTW, Ezra Klein will be footnoting the debate.
6:07 PM- President Obama started off with a shout out to his wife (it's their 20 year anniversary)... And a quick summary of what's happened in the last 4 years, as well his his ideas for the next 4 years. He talked about education investment, help for small business, redirecting money from last decade's wars to domestic investment. He talked aboht economic patriotism, investing at home.
6:09 PM- Mitt Romney was next. He started with a sympathy move by mentioning people in dire need... And blaming the economy on Obama. He mentioned his 5 point plan, but he's not really getting into specifics. In a way, he's pretty much sounding similar to Obama.... Except that obviously it's wrong because Obama did it.
6:14 PM- OK, now we finally have some differences. Obama hit Romney on trickle down economics, pointing out how Romney's tax policy means big cuts for the super rich... And higher taxes on the middle class.
And Romney responded by... Blaming gas and food prices on Obama. Oh, and Obama LOVES taxes! Romney just can't provide any specifics on how.
6:15 PM- "We cut taxes for the middle class by $3,600. We do best when the middle class does best." There's Obama's response, short and sweet.
Oh, and he's now detailing how Romney's budget makes no sense. He can't slash taxes for the 1%, increase military spending, and cut the deficit all at the same time. Romney protested immediately, but the numbers don't lie. Either he has to increase deficit spending or hike taxes on the middle class.
6:21 PM- "His big bold idea is... Never mind." Now, that's a zinger!
Obama just went through Romney's proposed budget and noted how it includes cuts to schools, cuts to other areas of public infrastructure, and cuts to taxes for the super rich. And...
"That's not a recipe for job growth."
Here, Obama tied Romney to George W. Bush while he tied himself to Bill Clinton. Here we go.
6:28 PM- So Romney wants a stronger America... By divesting from America. And attacking PBS.
Obama then moved to attack this and point out how Romney's plan is a throwback to Bush.
And then, he pointed out Congressional Republicans' refusal to compromise on any deficit deal... And that Romney applauded them as they started the debt debacle of last year. Romney continues to attack Obama on "trillion dollar deficits", but he still can't come up with actual math to show how he wants to simultaneously cut taxes for everyone, close the deficit, and create jobs.
6:39 PM- Obama turned personal, mentioned a local teacher here, and went point by point on Medicaid, why it matters, and how real people are hurt when Medicaid is cut the way Romney wants.
And Romney's answer? Solyndra!
6:45 PM- And now, Medicare & Social Security. Basically, Obama stood up for them while Romney.... Tried to have it all ways.
Oh wait, Romney just flip-flopped. He just said he believes Obama has made no changes for current Medicare beneficiaries... Then immediately accused Obama of Medicare cuts! What Romney is defending is the Medicare Advantage program that is just a payout to insurance companies. What Obama did was make Medicare more efficient by getting rid of Medicare Advantage while providing new benefits to seniors under the Affordable Care Act.
6:50 PM- Romney continues to flip flop on Medicare... And refuses to even endorse his own running mate's plan by name!
7:00 PM- So Romney hates Obamacare... Even though it's based on Romneycare. And even though Romney was once AP proud of his own health care policy, he's now attacking Obama for applying this policy nationwide? How did Romney make any sense on health care?
7:02 PM- Yes, finally! Obama is using Romney's own signature policy achievement in Massachusetts against him. There's really no difference between the two other than Obamacare is nationwide. Romneycare even depended on federal funds to work.
sfpelosi: Again #CNN indecided women (yellow lines) rise during Obama, fall during Romney & flatline along with men as he closes. #debate
Original Tweet: http://twitter.com/sfpelosi/status/253684168586825728
This is something to keep in mind when thinking about tonight's debate. Obama didn't bring up too much of what his campaign has been throwing into TV ads... But he really didn't have to. Hey, that's why they're in the TV ads.
What Obama needed to do was keep his cool and make his case that he can continue putting the country on a better economic path. And he may have ultimately done enough of it to prevent any "game change". Mitt Romney razzle dazzled in style, but he brought no substance. And believe it or not, most American voters don't like being played for fools.
8:05 PM- And for the close, Kevin Drum.
This was an odd, off-kilter debate. Neither Romney nor Obama seemed entirely comfortable. Romney struck me as too hyper, insisting in every segment on going over every single claim Obama had just made. The result was a bunch of laundry lists that never cohered into recognizable points. Obama seemed oddly hesitant and halting, as if he wasn't quite sure what points he wanted to make.
Neither candidate landed any serious blows. Obama came the closest, I thought, in the last half hour when he attacked Romney for all his secret plans. After noting that Romney wouldn't tell us which tax deductions he wants to cut, or how he wants to replace either Obamacare or Dodd-Frank, Obama delivered the best line of the night: "Is the reason that Governor Romney is keeping all these plans secret because they’re too good? Is it because somehow middle-class families are going to benefit too much from them?"
Did that make up for the fact that Obama was strangely incompetent at attacking Romney on his tax plan in the first half hour? Hard to say. But honestly, going after Romney on the tax deduction front seems pretty obvious, and I don't understand why Obama never really did it. Sure, he made a crack about "the math," but he didn't come straight out and ask Romney if he planned to get rid of the home mortgage deduction, for example. That would have hit home a lot harder than hauling out a wonkish point about the "independent analysts" who say Romney's plan doesn't add up.
Romney avoided any big mistakes, and certainly projected more energy than Obama. But I didn't think he really delivered any great lines, or got off any really crisp explanations of his policies. I don't think tonight's performance will hurt him, but I doubt that it really helps him either.
This pretty much sums up how I also feel. Romney did well on style, but totally lacked substance. And believe it or not, voters care about substance.