I’m live blogging tonight’s second presidential debate, taking place at Hofstra University in Hempstead, LI. Candy Crowley of CNN will moderate the town hall format, following up questions from undecided voters selected by Gallup.
The president will have to show he wants the job and that he’s ready to fight for it. He owes it to his supporters who believe in him despite his feckless showing. Romney will need to show he’s as optimistic and “moderate” as he appeared a couple of weeks ago, so voters who gave him a second look will tilt his way.
The first few minutes should show a lot. Let’s get started.
9:05 PM: College student Jeremy Epstein asks what he will do when he gets out of school. Romney: “I want you to get a job. I know what it takes to get the economy growing…More debt, less jobs…I know what it takes to get jobs back again.” He’s very engaged—and says “when you graduate. I’ll make sure you get a job.” A strong answer.
Obama: “I want to build on the 5 million jobs we created in the past 30 months.” He defends his record. He lists several things he’s done and wants to do: preserve Pell grants, increase educational opportunities, spending more on rebuilding America rather than on wars overseas.
The president was good, but Romney’s answer was a bit sharper.
Candy Crowley asks both candidates what they would do for people who are unemployed. Romney says unemployment would be over 10% if we counted underemployed and those who left the labor force. Then Romney gets a bit defensive about the auto industry bankruptcy, saying that even President Obama favored putting Detroit into bankruptcy and he did.
This was a soft lob over the center of the court, and Obama returned it with a smash. He said Romney wanted to put Detroit into bankruptcy but without the means for them to rebuild themselves successfully, then he launched into an attack on Romney’s private equity career as a symptom of everything that’s gone wrong with the economy over the last few years.
Romney tries to respond but Candy Crowley cut him off. They’ll be howling about this on Fox.
The question turns to energy and President Obama says Mitt Romney’s energy policy is to turn policy over to the oil companies. Romney had a very strong response, attacking the president’s energy policy as over-regulatory. He attacks the president over coal, saying Obama had tried to shut down the coal industry.
The president comes back, says most of what Romney said is untrue. Then he said when Romney was governor of Massachusetts, he pointed at a coal plant and said “coal kills.” Romney comes back and says “I will fight for oil, coal and natural gas.” The proof is the strategy isn’t working because gasoline prices are twice what they were when he took office. He says the pipeline from Canada and drilling offshore would help create jobs and provide cheap energy.
Obama says gas prices were so low when he took over because the economy was in the tank, and if Romney became president he would follow the same policies that got us into the mess in the first place, and drive gas prices back down that way.
A woman asks a question about Romney’s tax plan, asking about what tax deductions he would eliminate.
Romney says he would bring down taxes for the middle class, including zero taxes on interest, dividends, and capital gains. “I will not under any circumstances cut taxes on the wealthy or increase taxes on the middle class.” Romney again mentions his idea of putting a cap of, say, $25,000 in deductions and let people decide. His answers are persuasive here, but the math doesn’t add up—really.
Obama comes back at him and says what grows the economy is not tax cuts for the wealthy but expanding the middle class. He points out that Romney just two weeks ago said that his tax rate of 14% was fair and that’s the way to grow the economy. Romney responds: “what’s happened in the last four years is a disappointment; we don’t have to live like this. We can get the economy going again.” Then he gets into his five-point program and says he knows what creates jobs.
The president’s response: “Gov. Romney was a successful investor. If someone came to you with a deal [like this plan,] you wouldn’t take it, and neither should you.”
Romney: “When we’re talking about math that doesn’t add up, how about $4 trillion debt that doesn’t add up…I know what it takes to balance budgets.” Good comeback.
So far, I think Romney is strong as he was last time, but the president is a lot sharper and on the attack most of the time. Romney is still credible, but on the defensive much more than last time.