President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are in the spotlight on Wednesday night as they face off in their first debate at the University of Denver in Colorado.
Ahead of the event, polls showed the race for the White House tightening in the key battleground states of Florida and Virginia. Speculation has swirled over whether the debate could produce a shift in the contest.
HuffPost's Mark Blumenthal reports:
Republican pollster and HuffPost Pollster contributor Steve Lombardo argues, for example, that Romney is likely to get a "bounce" from the debates due to outsized expectations for Obama.
But political scientist and HuffPost contributor Thomas Holbrook crunches the past polling numbers and finds that debates rarely shift candidate support by more than a percentage point or two.
Below, a live blog of the latest developments to unfold.
|@ GovernorOMalley : Hey, Governor @MittRomney, Maryland schools are #1 and have been for the last four years in a row. #Debates|
Mitt Romney made a damning charge against President Barack Obama's health care reform law during Wednesday's debate, designed to give pause to the more than 150 million Americans who get health insurance through work.
Citing the Congressional Budget Office, Romney said, "up to 20 million people will lose their insurance as Obamacare goes into effect next year."
While it's true that a March CBO report said it's possible that many people may move from job-based health insurance to some other form other coverage, Romney misrepresented the report's conclusions.
The CBO wrote in a March analysis that it expects the Affordable Care Act "will lead to a small reduction in the number of people receiving employment-based health insurance."
According to the budget office, 3 million to 5 million people will switch from job-based health insurance each year from 2019 through 2022. This would break Obama's old promise that "If you like your health care plan, you can keep it," but it's not as dire as Romney suggested.
The health care reform law will extend health insurance coverage to 30 million people who otherwise would be uninsured, according to a separate CBO analysis published in July.
So where did Romney get the 20 million figure? The CBO crunched the numbers under several other scenarios, acknowledging that "there is clearly a tremendous amount of uncertainty about how employers and employees will respond to the set of opportunities and incentives under that legislation."
Under those alternative calculations the CBO concluded that as many as 20 million fewer people will get health insurance at work in 2019 alone -- but that as many as 3 million more would gain coverage through their jobs.
Romney cited a survey in 2011 by the consulting company McKinsey & Co. to support his contention. The study said 30 percent of businesses "are anticipating dropping people from coverage," Romney said.
The White House pushed back against McKinsey's findings at the time, noting that other analyses by organizations such as the RAND Corp. haven't found large numbers of companies saying they plan to drop coverage.
The health care reform law imposes new requirements on businesses, adding new incentives and disincentives. Companies with at least 50 full-time workers have to offer health benefits or pay a penalty. Some employers may find they can save money by canceling company health benefits. Workers would then obtain health insurance on the law's regulated exchange marketplaces in their states. Some companies may increase wages to compensate for the lost benefits.
Most big companies already provide health benefits and will continue doing so, in part because fringe benefits are tax-exempt and in part because they help attract and retain employees. Companies may also use more part-time workers or contractors to avoid the law's requirements, so those individuals would have to find their own plans on the exchanges or through Medicaid.
-- Jeffrey Young
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney contradicted his recent statements when he said he would push for middle-class tax relief during the first presidential debate.
“My view is that we ought to provide tax relief to people in the middle class,” Romney said during the debate. “Middle-income Americans have seen their income come down by ,300 [under President Barack Obama]. This is a -- this is a tax in and of itself. I'll call it the economy tax. It's been crushing.”
The statement contrasts with comments the Republican nominee made last month, when he told members of an Ohio audience they should not “be expecting a huge cut in taxes because I'm also going to lower deductions and exemptions,” as reported by HuffPost’s Sam Stein.
Median annual income has dropped nearly 5 percent since the recovery began in June 2009, according to a recent study, a significant enough decline to lead Vice President Joe Biden to say earlier this week that the middle class had been "buried" during the Obama administration's first term.
Obama has said he would sign a one-year extension of the Bush-era tax cuts for the first 0,000 of U.S. income.
-- Maxwell Strachan
After the debate, the Small Business Majority released a statement challenging some of Gov. Mitt Romney's claims about small business:
A key point in the debate focused on whether small businesses would be impacted if tax cuts for high-income earners were allowed to expire at the end of the year. In fact, only 3 percent of small businesses would be affected if the “Bush tax cuts” expired, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. What’s more, many of those businesses would hardly be considered small by anyone’s standards: the committee found many of them would have revenues of more than million a year.
The small businesses that line Main Street, that employ and service our local communities, are not the ones who would benefit from these cuts. And we know they don’t support extending the cuts, either. Our national polling found the majority of small businesses agree the tax cuts should lapse. What’s more, our poll showed only 3 percent of respondents had annual household income above 0,000.
The candidates also talked about healthcare reform and clean energy—both of which are important issues for small businesses. Our polling showed small business support for the Affordable Care Act when the majority said they didn’t think the Supreme Court should overturn it. They also see economic opportunities when it comes to clean energy: 71 percent of poll respondents believe it’s important that government continues to invest in clean energy."
The Small Business Majority is a non-partisan but left-leaning small-business polling and research organization, according to The New York Times.
-- Janell Ross
|@ ByronTau : DCCC: "Mitt Romney lied. On taxes. On Medicare. On Wall Street reform. On Obamacare."|
Mitt Romney scored a victory among debate-watching registered voters, according to a new CNN poll.
Sixty-seven percent of those voters surveyed by CNN said they thought Romney won the debate, while only 25 percent said they thought President Barack Obama won. Thirty-five percent of respondents said they were more likely to vote for Romney after watching the debate, 18 percent for Obama and 47 percent said neither.
Romney also scored well on other measures: Fifty-five percent of respondents said they thought Romney would do a better job handling the economy, while 43 percent said they thought Obama would. Romney also scored better on who debate-watchers thought would be a stronger leader, 58 percent to 43 percent.
-- Emily Swanson
White House press pool reporters got into the wrong motorcade, and only discovered they were in a Romney van when the driver praised the former Massachusetts governor's debate performance.
From the pool report of AFP's Stephen Collinson:
In an amusing moment, poolers were sitting in the Press One van outside the debate hall and the driver said 'I think that Romney did real good.' There was a moment of baffled silence, before our steno , Bec, put two and two together and said 'guys we are in the Romney van.' Blind panic then ensued as we piled out the van and sprinted towards the correct motorcade, which was parked right in front of Romney’s. Disaster was narrowly averted.
-- Michael McAuliff
Mitt Romney skipped over the thorny problem of dealing with the majority of elderly Americans who need Medicaid to pay for nursing home care, lumping their end-of-life struggles in with caring for the poor and promising a federal payment rate that's unlikely to keep up with their needs.
"I would like to take the Medicaid dollars, give them to the states, and say to the states you're going to get what you got last year, plus inflation, plus 1 percent, and you're going to manage your care for your poor in the way you think best," Romney said, referring to a plan that outside analysts estimate would cut .4 trillion from Medicaid over 10 years.
"I remember as a governor, when this idea was floated by [then-Wisconsin Gov.] Tommy Thompson, governors, Republican and Democrat, said please let us do that," Romney said. "We can care for our own poor in so much better and more effective a way than having the federal government how to care for our poor."
But that plan includes not just people traditionally thought of as poor. Nearly two-thirds of Americans who need nursing home care -- including in their own homes -- depend on Medicaid to pay for it because it's so expensive. Romney didn't seem to be thinking of them when he defended his plan to replace the current Medicaid system with block grants.
The problem with inflation plus 1 percent is that inflation for long-term nursing care is often more expensive than that, and states would have to figure out how to pay for the growing difference over time.
-- Michael McAuliff
Obama sent a simple email to supporters after the debate Tuesday night:
I hope I made you proud out there explaining the vision we share for this country.
Now we need to go win this election -- the most important thing that will happen tonight is what you do (or don't do) to help in the little time we have left.
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney repeated charges that President Barack Obama's health care law will kill jobs -- a claim at odds with Congressional Budget Office projections and the effects of Romney's own health care law in Massachusetts.
"I just don't know how the president could have come into office, facing 23 million people out of work, rising unemployment, an economic crisis at the -- at the kitchen table, and spend his energy and passion for two years fighting for Obamacare instead of fighting for jobs for the American people. It has killed jobs," Romney said.
The Congressional Budget Office disagrees, FactCheck.org noted in June. According to the nonpartisan agency's estimates, health care reform will reduce the workforce by 0.5 percent. That's mostly because people would choose to retire early or work fewer hours, FactCheck.org reported.
If the national experience under Obamacare mirrors what happened in Massachusetts under Romney's similar health care law, job losses won't be a major issue. Employment trends in Massachusetts since Romneycare took effect have mirrored national trends, concluded a report issued by the Urban Institute in June. "The evidence from Massachusetts would suggest that national health reform does not imply job loss and stymied economic growth," said the report.
The health care law will require employers with at least 50 full-time workers to offer health benefits or pay a financial penalty to the government, which would then provide tax credit subsidies that low- and middle-class people can use to defray the cost of health insurance purchased on regulated exchanges. Smaller companies would be exempt from that requirement and those with up to 25 employees can get tax credits toward health benefits.
-- Jeffrey Young
Paul Ryan emailed supporters after the debate:
Americans deserve a clear choice about what kind of future we're going to have, and Governor Romney provided that contrast tonight.
Mitt won this debate by effectively articulating his positive vision for a better America and the specific solutions needed to achieve it. The President, meanwhile, offered only more of the same failed ideas that have left those in the middle class - as Joe Biden put it - "buried."
As we continue to sharpen the focus on the big choice in this election, Americans will see that we cannot afford four more years like the last. We need a real recovery, and Mitt Romney can get the job done.
Senator Marco Rubio emailed Romney supporters after the debate:
After watching tonight's debate, the choice this November could not be clearer.
A vote for Barack Obama is a vote for four more years of economic stagnation and weak foreign policy; as well as higher taxes, debt, and healthcare costs. A vote for Mitt Romney is a vote for real reforms that will bring a real recovery, including 12 million new jobs, tax relief for the middle class, better healthcare at lower costs, a balanced budget, and leadership for an American century.
That's the kind of bold agenda Americans expect and deserve - and that's exactly what Mitt Romney outlined tonight.
|@ mpoindc : Stu Stevens on Obama declining to invoke Bain or the '47 percent': "I think that was a smart move on the part of their campaign."|
|@ zachdcarter : Obama went all night w/o saying "Cayman Islands" or "Swiss Bank Account." You can't play it safer. #debate|
While the words "jobs" and "growth" were used frequently during the debate, unemployment and it's painful proceeds received only scant attention.
Unemployment remained a challenge for at least 12.5 million Americans in September, according to federal data. Another 8 million people had part-time jobs but wanted full-time work.
It is a crisis that has not affected Americans equally and has contributed to rising inequality. The nation's white unemployment rate sat at 7.2 percent in September, while 14.1 percent of black workers and 10.2 percent Latino workers were seeking work.
-- Janell Ross
|@ aterkel : David Axelrod: Tonight's debate won't be a game-changer. #debates|
Former GOP-turned-Libertarian presidential hopeful Gary Johnson released the following statement on tonight's debate:
We didn't see a debate tonight. We saw two slightly differing versions of defending the Republican and Democrat status quo that has given us war after war after war, a trillion debt, and a government that is the answer to everything.
Nowhere was there a real plan for reducing government, balancing the budget any time in the foreseeable future, or a path that will actually put Americans back to work.
We heard two politicians arguing over which of their plans for government-run health care is less bad. We heard fantasies about balancing the budget while not reducing Medicare costs.
Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are nibbling around the edges of the nation's problems. We don't have time to nibble — we need to devour them.
Americans deserve real debates and a voice who will actually tell the truth about what it will take to put this great nation back on track.
The head of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee is unhappy about President Barack Obama's debate comments about being on the same page as Mitt Romney on Social Security.
"That is a very scary prospect. The president has an obligation to tell the American people what 'tweaks' he is proposing to Social Security before the election. There is a big difference between raising the retirement age on janitors, whose bodies are ready to retire, versus raising the cap on Social Security taxes paid by high-income earners," Progressive Change Campaign Committee co-founder Adam Green said in a statement.
Some progressive lawmakers have been worried about the possibility of Obama cutting a deal with Senate Republicans in the lame-duck session that would change the benefit structure of Social Security as part of a broader budget deal. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), for one, has predicted "that's exactly what's going to happen" when Congress comes back to town after the elections.
Green noted Wednesday night that Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which helps progressive candidates run their campaigns, has raised over million this cycle for Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, "who has promised no cuts to Social Security and Medicare benefits."
|@ aterkel : Fehrnstrom, on preexisting conditions: "We'd like to see states do what MA did. In MA, we have a ban on preexisting conditions." #debates|
According to a new poll numbers released by CBS, debate-watchers who went into the evening saying they were undecided said they thought Romney won the debate.
The poll, conducted online for CBS using GfK's Knowledge Networks panel, found that uncommitted voters thought Romney won by a 46 percent to 22 percent margin, while 32 percent thought the debate was a tie. Fifty-six percent said their opinion of Romney had changed for the better, whle 11 percent said it had gotten worse and 32 percent said their opinion hadn't changed.
Romney also saw drastic improvements in how the CBS panel viewed him on caring about the needs and problems of ordinary Americans. Before the debate, 30 percent said they thought Romney cared about their needs and problems, while 63 percent said so after the debate.
President Barack Obama also saw some improvement on this measure, from 53 percent before the debate to 69 percent after.
-- Emily Swanson
In the 2002 Massachusetts governor's race, Democrat Shannon O'Brien debated Mitt Romney five times. Romney went on to win that election, some say, because of his debate performance.
Huff Post reached out to O'Brien to get her take on tonight's debate. She emailed her analysis:
I thought that Romney did generally a good job making his points, painting a picture of what he perceives as the failed record and policies of President Obama. He was more aggressive but often seemed scattered in his rat a tat attacks. He always stayed on message even if his responses at times defied logic.I thought that President Obama was reserved but that he was Clintonesque in plainly countering the arguments laid out by Romney. He summed it up well. Romney won't tell you about his plans to replace health care, won't tell you about his tax plan and won't tell you about his plan to regulate the financial sector. Does he keep these plans a secret because they are just too good to share? Some will be disappointed that Obama did not go after Romney, but I think that Obama was plain spoken and gave clear explanations why his plans for the future will benefit the majority of Americans, and why he deserves to be re-elected.
-- Jason Cherkis
|@ EricCantor : What a night! @MittRomney presented a bold vision to create jobs, cut red tape and grow our economy.|
|@ ByronTau : Rudy Giuliani: Obama looked like he was "looking for his teleprompter"|
President Barack Obama's deputy campaign manager, Stephanie Cutter, admitted Mitt Romney won the debate on "preparation" and "style."
Speaking to CNN, Cutter said Obama, "scored points on balanced deficit-reduction plan and how he would do it. Holding Wall Street accountable and how he would do it. His health reform plan."
She added: "I think that Mitt Romney, yes, he absolutely wins the preparation. He wins the style points."
Pivoting back, she went on, "But that's not what is dogging his campaign. What is dogging his campaign -- the policies he doubled down on tonight," referencing Romney's tax plan.
She then took a swipe at Jim Lehrer, acknowledging that Romney controlled the discussion at times. "I wondered if we needed a moderator since we had Mitt Romney. We should rethink that for the next debate!"
In a debate on domestic policy, wide swaths of domestic policy issues went unmentioned.
Immigration, women's rights, abortion, unions, gay rights and climate change were not discussed.
President Barack Obama did not bring up Mitt Romney's tenure at Bain Capital. Nor did he discuss the wealth Romney accumulated from that position and his low tax rate, which Obama's campaign has used to attack Romney's tax proposals, which independent analyses show mostly benefit high-income earners.
Much of the debate focused on proposals named after legislators--the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform bill and the Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction plan.
|@ gov : Tonight's debate was the most tweeted about event in US political history, topping the numbers from the RNC and DNC.|
|@ ZekeJMiller : . @GovernorOMalley on whether Romney moved to center: “He moved I think in a lot of ways — mostly into a pretzel.”|
Mitt Romney laid into President Barack Obama for his signature health care law, saying it's too expensive, cuts hundreds of billions from Medicare and gives too much power to a panel of physicians to counsel elderly patients on end-of-life decisions.
But Romney skipped over the fact that the health care law he passed as Massachusetts governor was almost identical in nature to Obamacare. And, in a bizarre twist, he actually touted the state program as a model for the nation without acknowledging the depth of similarities between the two programs.
"The best course for health care is what we did in my state," Romney said. It represents "something at the state level that fits the needs of the state."
Obama agreed, though he didn't hammer in that the two programs are built around the same fundamental idea: an individual mandate.
"We've seen this model work very well -- in Massachusetts," he said of Obamacare. "What he said, it could be model for the nation. ... We used the same advisers and they say it's the same plan."
Romney has vowed to repeal and replace Obamacare on day one if he wins the election. He hasn't said what he would replace it with, though, and Obama honed in precisely on that point. He shot down Romney's idea to let people buy insurance across state lines, saying that does nothing to assure people with pre-existing conditions get affordable insurance. He also pushed back on rhetoric about Obamacare being a giant government program that pushed out private plans.
Obamacare "doesn't mean a government takeover," Obama said. "It means insurance companies can't jerk you around."
The debate on health care was certainly one of Obama's stronger points in the debate. He went into detail on its provisions, possibly too much at times, and drove in the point that nobody really knows what Romney would replace Obamacare with if he actually repealed the entire program.
"At some point, you have to ask, is he keeping all these plans to replace [programs] secret because they're too good?" Obama said to laughs. "Families are going benefit too much from them?"
Romney scored a point later, though, when he jabbed Obama for throwing all his weight behind health care reform when he came to office instead of focusing intensely on job creation.
"I just don't know how the president could have come into office facing 23 million out of work .... an economic crisis at the kitchen table ... spending his energy and passion for two years fighting for Obamacare instead of fighting for jobs for the American people," Romney said, without much of a response from Obama. "It has killed jobs."
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney hugs his wife Ann following the first presidential debate at the University of Denver, Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, in Denver. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
|@ markknoller : "I think the president did a wonderful job," VP Biden says of tonight's debate. He's up next: VP Candidates Debate on Oct 11.|
Who do you think won the debate? Click here to weigh in on HuffPost.
President Barack Obama hugs his wife Michelle following the first presidential debate at the University of Denver, Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
An Obama campaign official sends over the early spin from the debate that most pundits think went Mitt Romney's way.
Romney on defense all night (and testy) Over tax, medicare plans Came to prosecute a case about the president but ended up defending his own plans -- or lack of specifics
The President spoke directly to the American people, talked to voters as adults, laid out his plans to deal w/ deficit in a responsible way and create good paying sustainable jobs for mid class
Some of these points may stick. But they are likely to be overwhelmed by the larger narrative, which is that Obama was rather listless in prosecuting his case.
-- Sam Stein
|@ mpoindc : Messina on lack of Bain/47%/tax attacks: "That stuff didn’t naturally come up in the course of the conversation … there was no reason."|
|@ PeterHambyCNN : Martin O'Malley: Obama didn't mention 47 percent because "he's a gentleman"|
The final results are in from the HuffPost Tracker. Health care led the topics brought up by President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney during the debate.
Romney led mentions in both categories and also finished first in zingers. Obama won in the mentions of war and housing.
More on tracked categories in tonight's debate.
Paul Ryan issued the following reaction on tonight's debate:
“Americans deserve a clear choice about what kind of future we’re going to have, and Governor Romney provided that contrast tonight. Mitt won this debate by effectively articulating his positive vision for a better America and the specific solutions needed to achieve it. The President, meanwhile, offered only more of the same failed ideas that have left those in the middle class – as Joe Biden put it – ‘buried.’ As we continue to sharpen the focus on the big choice in this election, Americans will see that we cannot afford four more years like the last. We need a real recovery, and Mitt Romney can get the job done.”
Mitt Romney's closing statement during Wednesday night's debate was a reflection of his performance as a whole. The Massachusetts Republican portrayed the president as having failed to live up to his lofty expectations before proceeding to list the ways in which he would change course.
If the president was elected, he warned, "you will continue to see a middle class squeeze with incomes going down and prices going up." There would be "chronic unemployment."
"Obamacare will be fully installed," he said. "In my view that means a whole different way of life [for people] .... If I'm elected we won't have Obamacare."
He went on, continuing his argument that there would be "6 billion in cuts to Medicare."
He said 4 million people would "lose Medicare advantage," and warned about "dramatic cuts to the military."
And on and on.
It was a classic Romney list and it did the job, seeming sharp, detailed and direct compared with Obama's more sedate closing pitch.
-- Sam Stein
President Barack Obama offered a subdued closing statement at the end of Wednesday's debate against Republican nominee Mitt Romney, acknowledging he never said he would be a perfect president.
"Four years ago, we were going through a major crisis," Obama said, reprising what he'd already said several times during the debate. "And yet, my faith and confidence in the American future is undiminished. The reason is because of its people."
Obama cited a North Carolina woman who went back to school at age 55. He talked about Midwestern auto workers "who take such pride in building the best cars in the world."
"Four years ago," Obama continued, "I said that I am not a perfect man and I wouldn't be a perfect president. That's probably a promise that Gov. Romney thinks I've kept. But I also promised that I would fight every single day on behalf of the American people, and the middle class and all of those who are striving to get in the middle class. I have kept that promise. If you will vote for me, then I promise I will fight just as hard in a second term."
-- Arthur Delaney
President Barack Obama hit on a tension between Mitt Romney's attempt to appear bipartisan and his decidedly Republican pledge to repeal Obamacare.
Lehrer asked a standard question on what Romney would do to lessen gridlock in Washington.
"As president I will sit down on day one, actually the day after I get elected, I'll sit down with Democratic leaders and Republican leaders," said Romney. "We have to work on a collaborative basis."
Responded Obama, "First of all, I think Governor Romney is going to have a busy first day because he's also going to repeal Obamacare -- which will not be very popular with Democrats as your sitting down with them."
There were gasps in the audience.
|@ howardfineman : Neither Lehrer nor the president asked about the "47 percent" video. How could the president not ask Romney, even if Lehrer did not?|
According to CNN, Obama spoke for 42:50 of the debate and Romney spoke for 38:32.
Mitt Romney repeatedly blasted a cost-cutting board included in President Barack Obama's health care law by claiming it would have the power to dictate what treatments doctors can provide to their patients, conjuring the specter of the "death panels" that were a common conservative talking point during congressional debate on the law.
"We don't need to have a board of 15 people telling us what treatments we can have," Romney said during Wednesday night's presidential debate."The right answer isn't to have the federal government take over health care."
The law does include what's called the Independent Payment Advisory Board, an expert panel that will provide Congress with annual recommendations on how to reduce Medicare payment rates to medical providers. If Congress doesn't develop its own plan to meet the law's budget target, the board's recommendations automatically take effect.
Conservative politicians, including former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, referred to this panel, as well as a discarded part of the law that would have paid doctors to discuss end-of-life planning with patients, as "death panels" empowered to ration and cut off medical treatments for people deemed too sick. The charge was widely debunked, but the idea took root.
Obama defended the board, which the White House pushed over the objections of many congressional Democrats, as a way of putting health care experts in charge of finding ways to reduce Medicare spending. Obama also noted that the health care reform law explicitly forbids the board from making any changes to the benefits or treatments that Medicare beneficiaries receive.
-- Jeffrey Young
Members of the HuffPost community commenting on HuffPost Live are criticizing moderator Jim Lehrer. Here is a sampling.
Aubrey_D -- Lehr is so useless, I kinda like the idea of Romney cutting PBS.
Jamtse -- Lehrer...come on....get control of this situation!
ids12 -- Jim Lehrer has no control over this debate. Romney is just riding all over him. It's time for Lehrer to retire!
Rae_Stumpf -- Jim Leher is not doing his job....
|@ ZekeJMiller : Rubio: the first 30 minutes were painful to watch|