10/04/2012 07:55 am ET

In Debate, The Jobless Lose Again: Seven And A Half Things To Know

Thing One: Viva Las Vagueness, Part Two: The big losers in last night's debate were the unemployed.

Oh, sure, there were other losers: President Obama, who all but checked his watch, Poppy Bush style, in apparent aggravation at having to be on stage with the debate's winner, Mitt Romney, at all. Jim Lehrer, who moderated the debate with all the backbone of a muppet on laughing gas. The facts, which Romney unceremoniously shoved off the peak of one of the Rocky Mountains. Big Bird.

But neither Obama nor Romney mentioned what they would do right now to stop the jobs crisis in this country, and Lehrer was too busy playing with a ball of string to ask. Romney did mention jobs at every available opportunity, a smart debating tactic, but his plans for creating jobs are hopelessly vague, long-term, and often impossible. As New York magazine's Jonathan Chait put it: "Romney is a candidate of a 20% cut in tax rates, a new plan to cover people with preexisting conditions, and higher defense spending, and he will accomplish it all by eliminating federal funding for PBS." Obama, meanwhile, spent his time weakly defending the past four years, not bothering to mention the American Jobs Act that has been rotting in Congress for more than a year.

It was Romney's very vagueness, a hallmark of his campaign so far, that helped him win the night, says the Washington Post's Ezra Klein. But Obama's mostly half-hearted rebuttals, and Lehrer's snoozing, made it much easier for him.

Ultimately, Obama did land one decent blow, wondering out loud why Romney refuses to offer any explanation for how his promises were going to work: "At some point, you have to ask, is he keeping all these plans to replace [programs] secret because they're too good?" But Romney was on offense, and Obama on rope-a-dope defense, all night.

Most strikingly, Romney was in full Etch-a-Sketch mode, as the Huffington Post's Elise Foley and Ryan Grim point out, completely walking away from his tax plan, which clearly did envision $5 trillion in tax cuts, and then calling Obama a liar every time he used the number $5 trillion. Romney also at last fully embraced his role in the history of Obamacare, taking credit for Romneycare in Massachusetts. But then he also claimed that Obamacare would kill jobs, something the Congressional Budget Office -- and the history of Romneycare -- have said is unlikely, notes the Huffington Post's Jeffrey Young.

So that was your debate: An aggressive, polished challenger almost as full of tangy zingers as he was empty of facts. A distracted president that did not rise to the challenge. A muppet for a moderator. Romney clearly won the thing, but it remains to be seen how much his victory will move the needle. Obama's odds of re-election dipped on Intrade during the debate, but ended up right about where they'd started the night, at about 68 percent.

But the jobless will have their moment: The September jobs report is coming tomorrow, and that will likely have a much bigger impact on the election than Wednesday night's debate.

Thing Two: Draghi Cools His Heels: The European Central Bank meets this morning in Slovenia to talk about the steaming heap of rubble that is the European economy. It is widely expected to do nothing about it, for some reason, Reuters notes. Meanwhile, ECB chief Mario Draghi and everybody else are waiting for Spain to finally ask for the bailout it desperately needs but is reluctant to take, while its borrowing costs slowly creep higher again.

Thing Three: Banks Playing It Safe? Have you tried to get a mortgage lately to take advantage of record-low interest rates? Then you've probably been shocked to find out that it's darn near impossible to do so. Nick Timiraos at the Wall Street Journal explains one big reason why: The banks are worried that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will force them to take back any loans that go bad. Timiraos writes: "This play-it-safe stance by banks threatens to undercut the Federal Reserve's latest effort to push down mortgage rates by buying up mortgage-backed securities. Even if rates keep falling, many people will find it much harder to take advantage."

Thing Four: Everybody Out Of The Pool: A "dark pool" electronic brokerage that lets investors trade stocks anonymously has settled SEC charges that it shared secret client trading information with a unit of Citigroup -- which happens to be a part owner of that same dark pool, the WSJ writes: "Dark pools emerged in recent years as popular electronic-trading venues that offer hedge funds, mutual funds and other big money managers a way to buy and sell stocks anonymously. But allegations that some dark-pool operators haven't kept clients' confidential data to themselves, potentially allowing other investors to execute trades ahead of their customers, has tested investors' faith and drawn regulators' scrutiny."

Thing Five: How About A Flash Rally Instead? In other spooky electronic-trading news, shares of Kraft suffered a bizarre trading glitch on the Nasdaq yesterday, the latest in a near-constant string of trading mishaps that has rattled investor confidence. This time, happily, the glitch worked in a positive direction, sending the shares soaring in the first minute of the trading day. It was all a mirage, though, apparently the result of a trader's error.

Thing Six: The Yuan Will Be Your Currency This Evening: China owns nearly a trillion U.S. dollars, but it is sick and tired of the weak greenback having all the fun as the global reserve currency of choice, so it's starting to push its own currency into wider circulation around the world, Reuters writes. The process will be slow, though, because, again, China owns nearly a trillion of the dollars it's trying to destroy.

Thing Seven: Hewlett-Packard Close To Packard-Ing It In: If there's a job in America that's worse than being President of the United States, it's probably being CEO of Hewlett-Packard. The current lucky woman occupying that position is Meg Whitman, who yesterday warned investors that her turnaround plan wouldn't get the company fully turned around until, gulp, 2016. The computer maker's stock price tumbled 13 percent to its lowest level in a decade, the New York Times notes.

Thing Seven And One Half: Triple Crown For Cabrera: Last night Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers accomplished a stunning baseball feat not seen since 1967: He ended the baseball season leading the league in batting average, home runs, and runs batted in -- the legendary "Triple Crown." John Eligon of The New York Times writes: "Ruth never did it. Neither did DiMaggio, Aaron, Musial, Clemente or Mays. Ted Williams did it twice, and Mickey Mantle once. The last player to accomplish the feat was Carl Yastrzemski of the Boston Red Sox in 1967, when Lyndon Johnson was president, free agency was a pipe dream and the Boston left fielder known as Yaz chain smoked cigarettes in the dugout."

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Calendar Du Jour:

Economic Data:

8:30 a.m. ET: Initial Jobless Claims for the week of Sept. 29

10:00 a.m. ET: Factory Orders for August

2:00 p.m. ET: Minutes of the Sept. 12 Fed policy meeting

Corporate Earnings:


Heard On The Tweets:

@mattmday: Per a press release, Oreos are technically biscuits. #newsyoucanuse

@kevinroose: My American Airlines flight landed on time, with functional plane, friendly flight crew and successful bag retrieval. Do I get a NYT op-ed?

@Austan_Goolsbee: First, Einhorn blasts chipotle. Next, Romney seen touring chipotle THIS IS HOW LBOs GO DOWN PEOPLE.

@birbigs: I have coached and coached Mitt Romney on zingers. It's in his court now.

@RyanAvent: When my daughter puts away Candyland and brings me a puzzle, I'm like "GAME CHANGER".

And you can follow me on Twitter, too: @markgongloff



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