Live Blogging the Barack Obama Mitt Romney New York Town Hall Presidential Debate

Overall I’d say this was much like the VP debate when it comes to points. Both men got in their points and their attacks, both came off as well informed and reasonable. In the end I give the edge to Obama as he performs well in these town hall formats but not a knockout blow.

I did think the questions tended to be a bit more favorable to Obama than to Romney.

Again if you like Romney you think he won, if you like Obama you think he won.

However given that Obama did so badly the last time I suspect this comes off as an Obama comeback/win, and expect the polls to reflect that, probably by a good margin.

Don’t know it will turn things around for Obama but likely will stop the progress by Romney which will leave us with a tie going into the last debate.

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Last question is on what is the biggest misperception people have of you ?

Romney says that he is a guy who cares about everyone, that he is a simple family guy not the rich guy that Obama says he is.

Obama says he is not the big government guy, hits Romney on the 47% comment

Pretty much closing statements here, nothing you haven’t heard before though interesting that Romney used his time to talk about himself while Obama used it to attack Romney (in fairness Romney likely would have done same if he went last)

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Next question is on outsourcing jobs.

Romney talks about how we need to make things in this country more attractive to companies for the to come here, that in many cases the companies that outsource do so because the environment here is not attractive. He talks about his trickle down government line again.

Talks also about need to get level playing field overseas, cites how China has manipulated their currency in order to make things better for companies to come to China, says Obama has not made China fight by the rules and that the only way for us to compete overseas is to make the other countries play by the rules

Talks about reducing taxes on employers, points out that Canada’s taxes on business are lower than the US, regulations have quadrupled over last 4 years. Also says Health Care Reform will discourage jobs.

Obama talks about how he and Romney want to cut corporate taxes but that he also wants to cut loopholes on business who outsource jobs and that he wants to give big business breaks for outsourcing jobs.

Then as expected he hits Romney for his background as someone who outsourced jobs.
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Next question is on gun control and AK-47′s

Obama talks about how we all support the 2nd amendment but that we need to have control over more dangerous weapons and keep them out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. Goes on to tell personal story about people he met who survived a gun attack and how too many did not.

Says we need to ban assault weapons but also that we need to address the other issues leading to violence, opportunities for the urban poor.

Romney says that we need to enforce the laws we already have which make assault weapons illegal and that we need to address culture of violence, encourage two parent families, reduce poverty, etc

Then Romney goes into Fast & Furious controversy, concedes the whole story is not yet out but that this was a disturbing program which led to more violence (I suspect Obama will blame Bush).

Crowley goes after Romney by saying that some of the weapons are not banned and asks why he has changed views since he was governor of Massachusetts.

Romney talks about how pro and anti gun groups worked together on the legislation in Massachusetts and that this is the way to work for it.

Obama says Romney was for ban before he was against it and that he kowtows to NRA. But that they both agree on parents and schools.
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Next question is on Libya and security issues.

Obama says that it was a tragedy and that there will be a full investigation and that we will go after them while Romney made it a political issue. Says that he is commander in chief and that he will do what is needed to stop this from happening again.

But he says that it was his fault, the buck stops here, a good answer.

Romney agrees it was a tragedy but points out that the administration was pretty slow in responding to say this was a terrorist attack versus a spontaneous protest. Clever I think of Romney to not hit that topic too hard by playing the “mistakes can happen but then why did they happen” card and thus not be open to the charge of making hay on the deaths of others. Puts Obama in a tougher spot if he wants to come back and hit Romney.

Then Romney talks about broader foreign (and Middle East) policy being a problem.

Crowley says that Clinton took responsibility, asks where the buck stops and Obama agrees he is responsible and that he is working to find out what happened and stop and catch those who did it.

They go back and forth even bringing in Crowley who pretty much gives a little to both of them, which serves to demonstrate my view that most of these hot topic issues can be viewed either way depending on how you read the facts.

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Next question is on immigration, asking what to do with people who are here w/o green cards but being productive members of society

Romney says that we are a nation of immigrants and that we should welcome legal immigrants to this country. Says we need to streamline the system and make it easier for people to get here legally.

Says we should do more to encourage people with good educations to stay here. Says we should also put in programs to punish businesses who hire illegals

Says that he would not support amnesty and drivers licenses to illegals but that the children of illegals should have a path to citizenship. Pretty tricky for Romney to balance between the need to get Hispanic votes and the need to not offend those who oppose illegal immigration.

Obama agrees we are a nation of immigrants but that we need to show compassion.

Says that he also supports giving pathway to citizenship for children of immigrants but says Romney does not.

Plays the race card a bit by citing the Arizona law.

Romney responds by saying that he does not support whole Arizona law.

He also points out his investments for the last 8 years are in a blind trust thus he has no control over them. Points out that Obama’s pension also has Chinese investments.

I’m struck by a couple things in the last few questions

First, I’m not sure how anyone who considers abortion or immigration to be a key issue could really be that undecided, if you are pro choice or pro life your vote is pretty clear. Similarly if you are hard core on immigration (either no borders or no illegals at all) how you could be undecided.

Second, several of the questions do seem to be structured to give Obama an edge but the debate is still going on.

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Next question is from voter who supported Obama in 2008 but asks what he has done to earn his vote in 2012 and says he is not as optimistic as he was in 2008. This could be good or bad for Obama.

Obama cites the tax cuts, health care reform, fought terrorism (not directly citing Bin Laden but alluding)

I’m not sure this is going to swing an undecided voter, if you were happy with Obama and what he has done then you’d likely be supporting him. But Obama did do a good job of listing various programs and bills he’s passed.

Romney talks about how if you elect Obama you’ll get the same as you have the last four years and that is not likely to make you feel confident. Talks about the things Obama has not done (unemployment, deficit, immigration reform, etc).

Again on this question both coming to their standards with Obama citing what he has done or tried to do and asking for more time, Romney talking about what he has not done and says we need a change.

Debate remains fair even to date. If you are a Romney supporter you’re happy with him and if you’re an Obama supporter you’re happy there. If you’re still somehow undecided not sure this is changing much because both sides sounding and looking good, no train wrecks yet.

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Next question is from undecided voter who says that she hasn’t been happy with Obama but does not wish to see a return to Bush years, how do you differ from Bush ?

I can see how some voters feel this way but the last couple questions seem to be pretty favorable to Obama, though perhaps the next few will be more favorable to Obama

Romney talks about how he and Bush are different people and these are different times.

Then he goes on to talk about how he disagrees with Bush on China, that he will stand up to China where Bush did not.

He also hits Bush on deficit spending, and how he agrees with Obama that the Bush deficits were wrong but that now the Obama ones are even worse (nice connection)

Then he talks about how he thinks the GOP has focused too much on big business and that he wants to focus on small business and the middle class. Talks about how he will create jobs.

Obama then talks about how he came in with bad economy and that he has worked to improve things, citing the months of job growth as opposed to job loss under Bush.

He hits Romney by saying Romney did business with China and also says that he supports tax cuts like Bush did and that tax cuts hurt the economy.

Then he tries to say Romney is more extreme than Bush, painting him again as the right winger. Says that Romney is same on economy and worse on social issues.

Once again I’m a bit surprised, while this is a good question for Obama he doesn’t really seem to be doing as well as I would expect.

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Next question is on pay equity for women and what they would do about it (pretty much a softball for Obama this time)

Obama talks about growing up with a single mom and how he saw what it did to her to be treated unfairly, talks about how he supported legislation to support women getting equal pay. Talks about how it is a family issue since women often supports the family.

Moves on to education, talks about how Romney wants to expand Pell grants but says he has already done that by getting the banks out of it.

Obama clearly back in stride tonight, not surprising, but it may well become the theme of the debate coverage, regardless of who wins on points (which so far looks to be pretty even).

Romney talks about how he worked as Governor of Massachusetts to bring more women into the cabinet even though all of the applicants were men. Says that he wanted to get qualified people and that it resulted in the most female diverse cabinet in the country.

He says that he worked to make sure the workplace was flexible, that his chief of staff needed to be there for her kids and that it worked out well. Talks about how women have lost many jobs the last 4 years.

I’m impressed, I had thought this a softball win for Obama but so far Romney is holding his own.

As expected Obama hits back on the abortion/contraceptive coverage issue, though I’m still not sure abortion really swings votes in a situation like this. If these are key topics to you then your vote was decided long ago

I’m also struck by how both candidates keep coming back to their basic themes, Romney on his 5 point plan and jobs, Obama trying to talk about how he started out with a rough economy and has worked to improve it and that Romney would be too extreme.

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Next question on taxes, about Romney’s plan to reduce rates and deductions, the questioner asks about mortgage deduction/child care/education deductions.

Romney responds by saying he wants the middle class to have lower taxes because they’ve really hurt over the last four years, talks about increasing costs and decreasing income.

I think overall this was much like the VP debate in the sense that both were pretty even on points.

Last question is to ask what is the biggest misperception people have about you ?

Romney says he is not the big rich guy Obama has painted him as but that instead he is someone who cares about
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On deductions he says that the deductions would be reduced on the high income taxpayers but not on middle income taxpayers. Talks about giving everyone a set amount of deductions to use plus reducing the tax rates.

Talks about reducing capital gains and interest tax cuts, not sure that is a good idea given that it hits on his image as a rich guy.

Sums up by talking about reducing taxes on the middle class and make the overall system simpler.

Obama talks about tax cuts for middle class taxpayers and small businesses but also raising them on the rich to cut deficit.

Says that his increases would not apply to 98% of taxpayers but that the other 2% should have taxes raised. Suggests that higher taxes under Clinton helped to improve economy (wonder if Romney will point out that the economy was tech bubble not taxes).

Crowley asks how do you get a company to bring jobs here if wages overseas are so much lower.

Romney points out that China has not only manipulated currency but also that they stole technology and we need to stop them.

Obama says that some jobs won’t come back but they are low wage jobs and he wants to promote high wage jobs.

Then talks about how Romney thinks it’s fair for him to pay less taxes than the middle class. Says that Romney promised to give tax cuts to the rich during GOP primary.

Romney hits back by saying that many small businesses are taxed as individuals so they would be hurt by tax increases. Talks about how we badly the economy has performed the last 4 years. Cites more women and children in poverty (must be reading the polls showing he is doing better with women).

Talks about his five point plan.

Crowley asks Obama if Romney is right about reducing rates and deductions would result in top 5% not getting a cut (seems sort of a softball to Obama).

Obama talks about how Romney wants to spend money on tax cuts, military spending, etc and that this will result in trillions of dollars of debt, says Romney not being specific enough. Talks about how “nobody serious” supports Romney’s plan (presumably the groups that support him, just as the groups that support Romney say Obama’s plans don’t work… I hate it when they cite “groups” that are all pretty much partisan”

Crowley asks Romney if his plans don’t add up would he change his mind. Romney says his plan does add up and talks about the mess of Obama’s four years.

So pretty much both guys like puppies and want to give everyone a warm fuzzie while the other side wants to drown kittens (in other words the same rhetoric of the last year)

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Next question on gas prices and how Secretary of Energy Chu has said it is not the role of government to lower them, asks if Obama and Romney agree.

Obama goes first and (for obvious reasons) dodges the direct answer and talks about both his efforts to expand oil and gas production as well as alternative fuels, greater fuel efficiency, etc.

Says we should continue to explore current resources but we should do so in an environmentally sound way and also we should explore alternative fuels. Then says Romney is in oil’s pocket and he doesn’t support clean energy

Talks about how other countries are exploring new energy and that will bring jobs, including one for Jeremy (nice touchback).

Romney points out that Obama’s platform and policy are different that Obama has not supported drilling on government land and has gone after people for trying to do oil exploration.

Says we need to focus on oil, gas and coal (a clear connection to the same swing states Obama went for with the auto bailout), cites the problems in the coal industry.

Says he supports energy independence within 8 years and that this will bring new jobs and expand industry. Talks about the pipeline Obama blocked, cites it as an example of how Obama hurts energy industry.

Crowley asks if gas prices are new normal.

Obama says that things are clearly changing but we are expanding production. Says all that Romney said was a lie, cites how he was critical of coal while governor of Massachusetts. Calls for an all of the above strategy.

Romney challenges Obama on the oil leases, Obama says it’s a lie. Romney challenges Obama on how much he cut leases on federal land, Obama says that he just stopped those companies who were not using them.

A nice back and forth today but Obama responds to all of Romney’s statements about reduction in production on federal land by calling them lies. This could turn out to hurt Obama since drilling on federal land has gone down, but not sure how many will follow up with the fact checking.

Romney points out that if the Obama policies are working, why are gas prices going up ?

Obama says it’s because the economy was in the tank when he took office and improving economy is why prices are up.

This could have been a bad question for Obama but it looks like he came out ok.

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First question from a 20 year old college student who asks about jobs, saying he is worried he won’t have any work when he graduates.

Romney starts out with the usual thank yous to everyone for being there then moves into story about how he’s spoken with lots of people in the same boat as the questioner.

He then talks about the need to both expand opportunities for college students in the form of Pell grants and loans before moving to jobs.

He talks about how he has the business experience to build jobs and how it is wrong for students to graduate college and have both debt and no jobs. He says the last four years have crushed the middle class.

He then asks student (Jeremy) when he will graduate (2014) and says that since he assumes he will be President in 2014 that he’ll make sure Jeremy has a job. Very smooth.

Obama now speaks about how he wants to build good jobs for college students. Talks about building manufacturing industry and cites auto bailout (speaking to swing vote in Ohio and possibly Pennsylvania).

He then talks about expanding student loans and opportunities and sums up with talking about both energy and taxes (really trying to show he’s in command of the facts today)

Basically both hitting their own talking points and saying they want to build jobs and not really getting detail.

Crowley now gets a followup and somehow flubs Romney’s name (not a big deal but odd) and asks for more specifics about the long term unemployed.

Both come back with pretty much the same (Romney on long term unemployment and how bad things are, Obama on working to improve things).

Obama hits back on the not going back to the policies of past 4 years.

I think this is one of the flaws of these debates, we go in knowing what everybody is going to say.

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Moderator Candy Crowley now doing the introductions, explaining that nobody knows the questions in advance, etc.

Obama and Romney heading out and doing the standard smiles and handshakes while wishing for the other to fall flat on his face
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Good evening TMV readers as we prepare for the 2nd Presidential Debate.

This one is a town hall format and I expect that President Obama will perform better than he did last time and most likely will be seen as the winner even if the debate is a tie on points.

Author: PATRICK EDABURN, Assistant Editor