Construction Literary Magazine

Fall 2020

Live From Our Living Room: Gchatting Obama vs. Romney

Live From Our Living Room: Gchatting Obama vs. Romney

Photograph via the Washington Post

Anthony Resnick: One thing I want to get on the record before we get started: I think this could get interesting. I think President Obama and Governor Romney genuinely dislike each other—two really successful men who, I imagine, see themselves as deserving of that success and their opponent as undeserving. Add that Romney’s getting desperate and Obama has months of gaffes and flip-flops to get at, and it could get interesting.

Ben Hoffman: Yes, as to your first point—there’s not much love lost here. I’ve already been imagining what a Romney concession speech might look like—is there any room for a line like, “My opponent is an honorable man and we should respect his victory?” I’m not sure.

[quote]Jim Lehrer: Gentlemen, welcome to you both. Let’s start the economy, segment one, and let’s begin with jobs. What are the major differences between the two of you about how you would go about creating new jobs?[/quote]

Anthony Resnick: Jobs first? Not very original, Jim.

Ben Hoffman: No, not original at all, but better than David Gregory in last night’s Massachusetts Senatorial debate, opening with the same Native American question that had opened the previous debate.

[quote]Barack Obama: But we all know that we’ve still got a lot of work to do. And so the question here tonight is not where we’ve been, but where we’re going. Governor Romney has a perspective that says if we cut taxes, skewed towards the wealthy, and roll back regulations, that we’ll be better off. I’ve got a different view.[/quote]

Anthony Resnick: Just say “George Bush policies.” No need to hide the “blame the last guy” strategy. It works!

[quote]Mitt Romney: And the answer is yes, we can help [the unemployed], but it’s going to take a different path, not the one we’ve been on, not the one the president describes as a top-down, cut taxes for the rich. That’s not what I’m going to do. My plan has five basic parts.[/quote]

Anthony Resnick: Oh, yes, Romney’s bold 5-point “generic republican talking points” plan.

Ben Hoffman: Yes, right on the heels of our first Romney disavowal of his tax-cuts-for-the-rich plan.

[quote]Mitt Romney: Now, I’m concerned that the path that we’re on has just been unsuccessful. The president has a view very similar to the view he had when he ran four years ago, that a bigger government, spending more, taxing more, regulating more—if you will, trickle-down government would work. That’s not the right answer for America. I’ll restore the vitality that gets America working again.[/quote]

Anthony Resnick: Trickle-down GOVERNMENT? My mind is blown.

Ben Hoffman: What does that even mean?

[quote]Jim Lehrer: Mr. President, please respond directly to what the governor just said about trickle-down—his trickle-down approach. He’s—as he said yours is.

Barack Obama: Well, let me talk specifically about what I think we need to do. First, we’ve got to improve our education system.[/quote]

Ben Hoffman: I love it when candidates don’t even pretend to respond to the question. Obama was asked about trickle down and pivoted immediate to hiring math and science teachers.

Anthony Resnick: Yeah, he had his first answer ready to go, and he’s just giving it twice.

[quote]Barack Obama: When it comes to our tax code, Governor Romney and I both agree that our corporate tax rate is too high. So I want to lower it, particularly for manufacturing, taking it down to 25 percent. But I also want to close those loopholes that are giving incentives for companies that are shipping jobs overseas. I want to provide tax breaks for companies that are investing here in the United States.[/quote]

Anthony Resnick: Hasn’t every politician ever promised to stop rewarding companies who ship jobs overseas? Amazing that we can’t do this (and get rid of waste and fraud in government!) Since every politician is for it, why hasn’t it happened yet?

[quote]Jim Lehrer: Both of you have spoken about a lot of different things, and we’re going to try to get through them in as specific a way as we possibly can.[/quote]

Anthony Resnick: Uh-oh, specifics. Mitt can’t be happy.

Ben Hoffman: Jim’s head is already spinning. We’re only at the 10-minute mark!

[quote]Mitt Romney: [Middle-income Americans are] just being crushed. Middle-income Americans have seen their income come down by $4,300. This is a—this is a tax in and of itself. I’ll call it the economy tax. It’s been crushing.[/quote]

Anthony Resnick: The economy tax? Trickle-down government? Apparently Mitt’s comeback strategy is new jargon, just tossing terms together and saying they apply to Obama’s policies.

Ben Hoffman: Mitt: “Energy is critical.” Yes.

Anthony Resnick: I hope Romney doesn’t get let off the hook on which deductions he’d close to make his tax plan work. He just can’t give an effective answer to that. His “the specifics are my general principles” line might be my favorite line of the campaign.

Ben Hoffman: “The specifics are my general principles” may be the best line of the campaign not uttered by Newt Gingrich. Who, it should be noted, would really struggle in the audience-can’t-get-rowdy debate format.

[quote]Mitt Romney: And finally, with regards to that tax cut, look, I’m not looking to cut massive taxes and to reduce the—the revenues going to the government. My—my number one principle is there’ll be no tax cut that adds to the deficit.[/quote]

Anthony Resnick: The Wall Street Journal might break up with Mitt given his soft-pedaling of tax cuts.

[quote]Barack Obama: Now, Governor Romney’s proposal that he has been promoting for 18 months calls for a $5 trillion tax cut on top of $2 trillion of additional spending for our military. And he is saying that he is going to pay for it by closing loopholes and deductions. The problem is that he’s been asked a—over a hundred times how you would close those deductions and loopholes and he hasn’t been able to identify them.[/quote]

Ben Hoffman: Prescient by you, Anthony. You say you hope Romney doesn’t get off the hook on which deductions he’d cut, and not two minutes later, Obama hits Romney on exactly this topic.

Anthony Resnick: Mitt seems excited to answer, though.

[quote]Jim Lehrer: All right. What is the difference?

Mitt Romney: Well—

Jim Lehrer: Let’s just stay on taxes for—

Mitt Romney: But I—but I—right, right.

Jim Lehrer: OK. Yeah, just—let’s just stay on taxes for a moment.

Mitt Romney: Yeah. Well, but—but—[/quote]

Anthony Resnick: Come on, Jim, let him get to the specifics.

[quote]Mitt Romney: So—so if—if the tax plan he described were a tax plan I was asked to support, I’d say absolutely not. . . . I will not, under any circumstances, raise taxes on middle-income families. I will lower taxes on middle-income families. Now, you cite a study. There are six other studies that looked at the study you describe and say it’s completely wrong. I saw a study that came out today that said you’re going to raise taxes by 3 to $4,000 on—on middle-income families. There are all these studies out there.[/quote]

Ben Hoffman: No economist can say anything with certainty about Mitt Romney’s tax plan because HE REFUSES TO GIVE US ANY SPECIFIC DETAILS OR MATH.

Anthony Resnick: An underrated feature of Romney that really comes out in debates—his slurred pronunciation of “absolutely.”

[quote]Mitt Romney: I will not reduce the share paid by high-income individuals. I—I know that you and your running mate keep saying that, and I know it’s a popular things to say with a lot of people, but it’s just not the case. Look, I got five boys. I’m used to people saying something that’s not always true, but just keep on repeating it and ultimately hoping I’ll believe it – [scattered laughter]—but that—that is not the case, all right?[/quote]

Ben Hoffman: “I’ve got five boys . . .” Our first Mitt Zinger!

Anthony Resnick: Mitt’s defense of his tax plan is “the necessary implications of my plan won’t happen because I say I’m against them.”

[quote]Barack Obama: And the fact is that if you are lowering the rates the way you describe, Governor, then it is not possible to come up with enough deductions and loopholes that only affect high-income individuals to avoid either raising the deficit or burdening the middle class. It’s—it’s math. It’s arithmetic.[/quote]

Anthony Resnick: Good callback to Bill Clinton: “It’s math.”

Ben Hoffman: Yes, as Bush would say, Romney’s got “fuzzy math.”

Anthony Resnick: Mitt needs to pick a facial expression and just roll with it. I can’t tell if he loves, pities, or is amused by Obama.

Ben Hoffman: His go to is “restrained smirk.” Is it just me, or does Obama’s delivery seem a hair off?

Anthony Resnick: I think he’s going too hard for restrained. He wants this debate to be as boring as possible.

Ben Hoffman: Yes, that seems to be the strategy. How many Americans are zoning out right now, not quite following and just listening for key words.

Anthony Resnick: Damn, neither Obama nor Lehrer went for the “WHAT DEDUCTIONS?” jugular. Also, Romney can’t be how happy this conversation went from jobs to taxes. Much stronger ground for Obama.

Ben Hoffman: Great point. For Romney, it’s something like this: Mitt’s taxes < taxes generally < jobs.

[quote]Barack Obama: If you believe that we can cut taxes by $5 trillion and add $2 trillion in additional spending that the military is not asking for—$7 trillion, just to give you a sense, over 10 years that’s more than our entire defense budget—and you think that by closing loopholes and deductions for the well-to-do, somehow you will not end up picking up the tab, then Governor Romney’s plan may work for you. But I think math, common sense and our history shows us that’s not a recipe for job growth.[/quote]

Anthony Resnick: Romney’s too on the defensive on the specifics; Obama’s doing a much better job hitting big picture.

Ben Hoffman: “Common sense.” How dare Obama talk about common sense? Sarah Palin has that copyrighted, right?

[quote]Mitt Romney: Jim, the president began this segment, so I think I get the last word, so I’m going to take it. All right? [Chuckles.]

Jim Lehrer: Well, you’re going to get the first word in the next segment.

Mitt Romney: Well, but—but he gets the first word of that segment. I get the last word of that segment, I hope. Let me just make this comment.[/quote]

Anthony Resnick: Mitt thinks he gets to make up the rules!

Ben Hoffman: Mitt has little regard for numbers, whether they be tax plan numbers or debate time limits. Either way, they will bend to his reality.

Anthony Resnick: Yes, he is for good things, and therefore his policies will result in good things, because that is what he is for.

Ben Hoffman: That’s basically his foreign policy in a nutshell.

[quote]Mitt Romney: Well, good. I’m glad you raised [the debt]. And it’s a—it’s a critical issue. I think it’s not just an economic issue. I think it’s a moral issue.[/quote]

Ben Hoffman: Romney says the deficit “is a moral issue.” Obama should come back with the “moral” way to deal with the deficit: not to cut taxes for the rich on the backs of the poor, which is what Romney wants to do.

Anthony Resnick: Great point; hopefully Obama’s listening.

[quote]Mitt Romney: So how do we deal with it? Well, mathematically there are—there are three ways that you can cut a deficit. One, of course, is to raise taxes. Number two is to cut spending. And number three is to grow the economy because if more people work in a growing economy they’re paying taxes and you can get the job done that way.[/quote]

Anthony Resnick: Romney’s doing a good job about turning every answer into an answer about jobs, but he should be even more shameless about it.

[quote]Mitt Romney: What things would I cut from spending? Well, first of all, I will eliminate all programs by this test—if they don’t pass it: Is the program so critical it’s worth borrowing money from China to pay for it? . . . I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I’m going to stop other things. I like PBS. I love Big Bird. I actually like you too. But I’m not going to—I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it. That’s number one.[/quote]

Ben Hoffman: Romney’s plan is, is a program worth borrowing money from China? You could use this criteria to cut virtually any, even every, government program, depending on how you feel about China.

Anthony Resnick: Yeah, it’s a slick sound bite to avoid having any actual policies. But, hey, at least he’s for efficiency.

[quote]Barack Obama: I’ve put forward a specific $4 trillion deficit-reduction plan. It’s on a website. You can look at all the numbers, what cuts we make and what revenue we raise. And the way we do it is $2.50 for every cut, we ask for a dollar of additional revenue, paid for, as I indicated earlier, by asking those of us who have done very well in this country to contribute a little bit more to reduce the deficit.[/quote]

Anthony Resnick: He needs to bring up the 10 to 1 spending cuts to tax increases Romney said he’d reject.

[quote]Barack Obama: Let—let me just finish this point because you’re looking for contrast. You know, when Governor Romney stood on a stage with other Republican candidates for the nomination, and he was asked, would you take $10 of spending cuts for just $1 of revenue, and he said no. Now, if you take such an unbalanced approach, then that means you are going to be gutting our investments in schools and education.[/quote]

Ben Hoffman: Wow, just wow, Anthony. Let the record show Anthony urged this 10 seconds before it happens. How can I compete with this?

Anthony Resnick: Well, he should have stolen your “moral way to cut the deficit” point.

Ben Hoffman: By the way, of all the insane moments of the Republican debates, that may have been the most underrated. And yet you almost couldn’t blame any one individual for raising his hand.

Ben Hoffman: Are visuals allowed in these debates? Probably not. But what if Obama had smuggled in a giant rolled-up lamination of this chart and pulled it out now, and demanded the cameras zoom in on it. What would Romney do? What would Jim do?

Anthony Resnick: Jim has already shown he’s lost control. But Romney would flip out. He loves rules. He destroyed Perry for breaking the rules.

[quote]Barack Obama: And so if we take a balanced approach, what that then allows us to do is also to help young people, the way we already have during my administration, make sure that they can afford to go to college. It means that the teacher that I met in Las Vegas, wonderful young lady, who describes to me—she’s got 42 kids in her class. The first two weeks, she’s got them—some of them sitting on the floor until finally they get reassigned. They’re using textbooks that are 10 years old. That is not a recipe for growth; that’s not how America was built. And so budgets reflect choices. Ultimately we’re going to have to make some decisions. And if we’re asking for no revenue, then that means that we’ve got to get rid of a whole bunch of stuff, and the magnitude of the tax cuts that you’re talking about, Governor, would end up resulting in severe hardship for people, but more importantly, would not help us grow.[/quote]

Anthony Resnick: Now he’s getting into your territory. We should be running this campaign.

Ben Hoffman: Obama: “the teacher I met in Las Vegas” . . . and now every conservative in front of a TV is screaming, OH, YOU MEAN WHEN YOU WENT TO LAS VEGAS FOR YOUR FUNDRAISER WHILE OUR EMBASSIES WERE BURNING ON 9/11! We should be running this campaign—though I have to say, the last six months or so, it’s been run pretty well, hasn’t it?

Anthony Resnick: Hmmm, good point.

[quote]Mitt Romney: But you know, if we get that tax rate from 35 percent down to 25 percent, why, that $2.8 billion [in tax breaks to oil companies] is on the table. Of course it’s on the table. That’s probably not going to survive, you get that rate down to 25 percent.[/quote]

Anthony Resnick: Romney finally named a deduction he’d eliminate (maybe, it’s on the table!)

Ben Hoffman: Maybe, I’d knock on wood on the table.

[quote]Mitt Romney: [O]ne of the magnificent things about this country is the whole idea that states are the laboratories of democracy. Don’t have the federal government tell everybody what kind of training programs they have to have and what kind of Medicaid they have to have. Let states do this.[/quote]

Anthony Resnick: States are laboratories of democracy—like on health care?

Ben Hoffman: Right. Romney touts the idea that states can best care for their poor. Doesn’t this undercut the whole welfare freak-out thing the right’s been touting?

[quote]Barack Obama: Social Security is structurally sound. It’s going to have to be tweaked the way it was by Ronald Reagan and Speaker—Democratic Speaker Tip O’Neill. But it is—the basic structure is sound. But—but I want to talk about the values behind Social Security and Medicare and then talk about Medicare, because that’s the big driver . . . You know, my grandmother, some of you know, helped to raise me. My grandparents did. My grandfather died awhile back. My grandmother died three days before I was elected president. And she was fiercely independent. She worked her way up, only had a high school education, started as a secretary, ended up being the vice president of a local bank. And she ended up living alone by choice. And the reason she could be independent was because of Social Security and Medicare.[/quote]

Ben Hoffman: In one fell swoop, Obama name drops the two people every politician must keep close to his heart: Ronald Reagan and a poor ancestor who worked his or her way up toward the American dream.

[quote]Barack Obama: And in Medicare, what we did was we said, we are going to have to bring down the costs if we’re going to deal with our long- term deficits, but to do that, let’s look where some of the money is going. Seven hundred and sixteen billion dollars we were able to save from the Medicare program by no longer overpaying insurance companies, by making sure that we weren’t overpaying providers.[/quote]

Anthony Resnick: Really important for Obama getting the first word here. This “Medicare cut” dispute is so dependent on framing.

[quote]Mitt Romney: And I know any time we talk about entitlements, people become concerned that something’s going to happen that’s going to change their life for the worst, and the answer is, neither the president nor I are proposing any changes for any current retirees or near retirees, either to Social Security or Medicare.[/quote]

Anthony Resnick: (Though one of us picked a running mate who proposed pretty dramatic changes.)

[quote]Mitt Romney: But on Medicare, for current retirees he’s cutting $716 billion from the program. Now, he says by not overpaying hospitals and providers, actually just going to them and saying we’re going to reduce the rates you get paid across the board, everybody’s going to get a lower rate. That’s not just going after places where there’s abuse, that’s saying we’re cutting the rates. Some 15 percent of hospitals and nursing homes say they won’t take anymore Medicare patients under that scenario.[/quote]

Ben Hoffman: Oh boy. Here we go with the $716 billion again. Romney is all but asking for Paul Ryan to be thrown in his face.

[quote]Barack Obama: The idea, which was originally presented by Congressman Ryan, your running mate, is that we would give a voucher to seniors, and they could go out in the private marketplace and buy their own health insurance. The problem is that because the voucher wouldn’t necessarily keep up with health care inflation, it was estimated that this would cost the average senior about $6,000 a year. Now, in fairness, what Governor Romney has now said is he’ll maintain traditional Medicare alongside it. But there’s still a problem, because what happens is those insurance companies are pretty clever at figuring out who are the younger and healthier seniors. They recruit them leaving the older, sicker seniors in Medicare. And every health care economist who looks at it says over time what’ll happen is the traditional Medicare system will collapse. And then what you’ve got is folks like my grandmother at the mercy of the private insurance system, precisely at the time when they are most in need of decent health care.[/quote]

Anthony Resnick: Good for Obama to avoid the “current seniors/future retirees” distinction and just say the voucher system sucks, now or in the future.

[quote]Mitt Romney: I know my own view is I’d rather have a private plan. I—I’d just as soon not have the government telling me what kind of health care I get. I’d rather be able to have an insurance company. If I don’t like them, I can get rid of them and find a different insurance company.[/quote]

Anthony Resnick: He likes to fire people!

Ben Hoffman: Also, hasn’t Obama JUST explained why this isn’t going to work? The government won’t be able to offer premiums as low as private insurance because private insurance will cherry picking the healthier seniors. Is that correct?

Anthony Resnick: But, no, see, Romney is against seniors losing health care, so that won’t happen.

[quote]Barack Obama: One last point I want to make. We do have to lower the cost of health care. Not just in Medicare and—

Jim Lehrer: We’ll talk about that in a minute.

Barack Obama:—but—but overall.

Jim Lehrer: Go. OK.

Barack Obama: And so—

Mitt Romney: That’s—that’s a big topic. Could we—could we stay on Medicare?

Barack Obama: Is that a—is that a separate topic? I’m sorry.

Jim Lehrer: Yeah, we’re going to—yeah. I want to get to it, but all I want to do is very quickly—

Mitt Romney: Let’s get back to Medicare.

Jim Lehrer: —before we leave the economy—

Mitt Romney: Let’s get back to Medicare.

Jim Lehrer: No, no, no, no—

Mitt Romney: The president said that the government can provide the service at lower—

Jim Lehrer: No.

Mitt Romney: —cost and without a profit.

Jim Lehrer: All right.[/quote]

Anthony Resnick: Jim Lehrer needs a buzzer.

(Ben briefly exits the proceedings).

Ben Hoffman: Whoops. My Firefox crashes whenever Mitt Romney bullies Jim Lehrer. Expect that to happen again.

[quote]Mitt Romney: Regulation is essential. You can’t have a free market work if you don’t have regulation. As a business person, I had to have—I needed to know the regulations. I needed them there. You couldn’t have people opening up banks in their—in their garage and making loans. I mean, you have to have regulations so that you can have an economy work. Every free economy has good regulation. At the same time, regulation can become excessive.

Jim Lehrer: Is it excessive now, do you think?

Mitt Romney: In some places, yes, in other places, no.

Jim Lehrer: Like where?

Mitt Romney: It can become out of date.[/quote]

Anthony Resnick: Bold stances! Regulation is good, but there can be too much, and in some places it’s too much, but in some places not.

Ben Hoffman: It’s almost too easy for Obama to tie this question on regulations to the financial meltdown, right?

Anthony Resnick: Yeah. Anything that lets Obama talk about 2008 is a win for him.

[quote]Mitt Romney: Let me mention the other one. Let’s talk the—

Jim Lehrer: No, no, let’s do—right now, let’s not. Let’s let him respond.[/quote]

Ben Hoffman: “Let’s not.” Oooh. That’s right, Jim, stand up for yourself!

Anthony Resnick: I mean, Romney basically already pledged to fire him, this might be his last hurrah.

Ben Hoffman: Unofficial Debate Title: “Big Bird & Jim Lehrer’s Last Hurrah.”

[quote]Barack Obama: And so the question is does anybody out there think that the big problem we had is that there was too much oversight and regulation of Wall Street? Because if you do, then Governor Romney is your candidate.[/quote]

Anthony Resnick: Boom.

Ben Hoffman: Obama hints that Romney has changed his view on Dodd-Frank. I’m surprised Obama hasn’t been more explicit on the Romney-is-a-flip-flopper meme.

Anthony Resnick: Maybe he’s saving it all for health care. He had a good line about Romney saying “nevermind” on his tax policy, but I expected a lot more snark about flip-flopping.

[quote]Mitt Romney: You say we were giving mortgages to people who weren’t qualified. That’s exactly right. It’s one of the reasons for the great financial calamity we had. [/quote]

Anthony Resnick: Oh, I forgot, loans to black people caused the meltdown.

Ben Hoffman: They’re in the takers group, right?

[quote]Jim Lehrer: All right, I think we have another clear difference between the two of you. Now let’s move to health care, where I know there is a clear difference—(laughter)—and that has to do with the Affordable Care Act, “Obamacare.” And it’s a two-minute new segment, and it’s—that means two minutes each. And you go first, Governor Romney.[/quote]

Ben Hoffman: Lehrer sounds so pleased, as if without his moderation we’d never have discovered the candidates have differences.

Anthony Resnick: Yeah, and it’s really cute that Lehrer is still pretending there are rules.

[quote]Jim Lehrer: You want the Affordable Care Act repealed. Why?

Mitt Romney: I sure do. Well, in part, it comes, again, from my experience. I was in New Hampshire. A woman came to me, and she said, look, I can’t afford insurance for myself or my son. I met a couple in Appleton, Wisconsin, and they said, we’re thinking of dropping our insurance; we can’t afford it.[/quote]

Anthony Resnick: Stories about people not being able to afford insurance is an argument against Obamacare?

[quote]Mitt Romney: There was a survey done of small businesses across the country. It said, what’s been the effect of “Obamacare” on your hiring plans? And three-quarters of them said, it makes us less likely to hire people. [/quote]

Anthony Resnick: Small business owners watch Fox News. They don’t understand Obamacare (or marginal tax rates, for that matter). Don’t trust their opinions on anything.

Ben Hoffman: Yeah, they have no clue. Unfortunately, we’re about to enter the “who has the better small business owner from the Rust Belt anecdote” segment of the debate.

[quote]Jim Lehrer: Two minutes is up, sir.

Barack Obama: No, I—I think I’ve—I had five seconds before you interrupted me—was—(laughter)—that the irony is that we’ve seen this model work really well in Massachusetts, because Governor Romney did a good thing, working with Democrats in the state to set up what is essentially the identical model. And as a consequence, people are covered there. It hasn’t destroyed jobs. And as a consequence, we now have a system in which we have the opportunity to start bringing down cost, as opposed to just—

Jim Lehrer: Your five—

Barack Obama: —leaving millions of people out in the cold.

Jim Lehrer: Your five seconds went away a long time ago. [Laughter; big grin from POTUS.][/quote]

Anthony Resnick: Obama letting that “likability edge” shine through for the first time.

Ben Hoffman: Yes, I agree, he hasn’t been that likeable thus far up till now.

[quote]Mitt Romney: First of all, I like the way we did it in Massachusetts. I like the fact that in my state, we had Republicans and Democrats come together and work together. What you did instead was to push through a plan without a single Republican vote.[/quote]

Ben Hoffman: Proposed Obama comeback: You were able to work with Mass Democrats because Mass Democrats are not INSANE NATIONAL REPUBLICANS WHO VOWED TO MAKE THE ACA MY WATERLOO.

Anthony Resnick: Yeah, the “no Republican votes” line sounds good, but it also ties Romney to the rightfully unpopular Republican Congressional leadership and reminds people why they hate Republicans generally.

Ben Hoffman: Yes. That’s the last thing Romney wants is to be tied to Republicans. General impression thus far: this debate is pretty much a draw (which may be viewed as a win for Romney, since he was the “underdog”). Thoughts?

Anthony Resnick: Yeah, both are playing it safe, not saying anything surprising (good or bad). I’d give the edge to Obama—anything that doesn’t move the polls is good.

Ben Hoffman: Romney health care plan: 1. Preexisting conditions will be covered. 2. Young people can stay on their parents plan. 3. No one will get cancer or die because that would make the numbers not work and I say it will work.

[quote]Mitt Romney: In my opinion, the government is not effective in—in bringing down the cost of almost anything. As a matter of fact, free people and free enterprises trying to find ways to do things better are able to be more effective in bringing down the costs than the government will ever be. . . . The private market and individual responsibility always work best.[/quote]

Anthony Resnick: Except for the entire time before Obamacare, when they worked terribly.

[quote]Barack Obama: But when Governor Romney says that he’ll replace it with something but can’t detail how it will be in fact replaced, and the reason he set up the system he did in Massachusetts is because there isn’t a better way of dealing with the pre-existing conditions problem, it—it just reminds me of—you know, he says that he’s going to close deductions and loopholes for his tax plan.[/quote]

Anthony Resnick: Yes, the deductions again!

[quote]Barack Obama: That’s how it’s going to be paid for. But we don’t know the details. He says that he’s going to replace Dodd-Frank, Wall Street reform. But we don’t know exactly which ones. He won’t tell us. He now says he’s going to replace “Obamacare” and assure that all the good things that are in it are going to be in there and you don’t have to worry. And at some point, I think the American people have to ask themselves, is the reason that Governor Romney is keeping all these plans to replace secret because they’re too good? Is—is it because that somehow middle-class families are going to benefit too much from them? No, the—the reason is because when we reform Wall Street, when we tackle the problem of pre-existing conditions, then, you know, these are tough problems, and we’ve got to make choices. And the choices we’ve made have been ones that ultimately are benefiting middle-class families all across the country.[/quote]

Anthony Resnick: That was the money line from Obama.

Ben Hoffman: I wonder how it would work for Obama to go big here. “I’m going to fight for Obamacare because I know if Republicans repeal it vulnerable Americans will never get this opportunity again for a long time, because Republicans fought for 40 years to keep them from getting health care. And that’s not the kind of America I want to live in.”

[quote]Mitt Romney: [M]y experience as a governor is if I come in and—and lay down a piece of legislation and say it’s my way or the highway, I don’t get a lot done. [/quote]

Anthony Resnick: I can’t believe Romney keeps giving this answer—specifics mean you can’t govern. Does that convince anyone?

Ben Hoffman: I don’t think so, but what’s his alternative. The specifics WON’T make him look good.

Anthony Resnick: I think he’s better off pretending he does offer specifics, not defending not having them.

Ben Hoffman: Romney: I will not try to run roughshod over Congressional Democrats the way I am over Jim Lehrer’s time limits.

[quote]Jim Lehrer: That is a terrific segue to our next segment, and is the role of government. . . . [D]o you believe there’s a fundamental difference between the two of you as to how you view the mission of the federal government?[/quote]

Anthony Resnick: Time to replay the conventions in two-minute segments. And answer the question “who built that?”

[quote]Barack Obama: Look, the genius of America is the free enterprise system, and freedom, and the fact that people can go out there and start a business, work on an idea, make their own decisions. But as Abraham Lincoln understood, there are also some things we do better together.

So in the middle of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln said, let’s help to finance the Transcontinental Railroad. Let’s start the National Academy of Sciences. Let’s start land grant colleges, because we want to give these gateways of opportunity for all Americans, because if all Americans are getting opportunity, we’re all going to be better off. That doesn’t restrict people’s freedom; that enhances it.[/quote]

Ben Hoffman: In the middle of the Civil War, Lincoln said let’s build the transcontinental railroad . . . and suspend habeas corpus!

Anthony Resnick: And I’m sure if he’d had drones, he’d have loved them too.

Ben Hoffman: Basically, Sherman’s March to the Sea was the drone predecessor?

Anthony Resnick: Another prediction: Romney’s about to come out in favor of all the popular things government does, and none of the unpopular things

[quote]Mitt Romney: That statement also says that we are endowed by our Creator with the right to pursue happiness as we choose. I interpret that as, one, making sure that those people who are less fortunate and can’t care for themselves are cared by—by one another.[/quote]

Ben Hoffman: Re: taking care of the poor. This is basically what Obama believes, but Romney is the one saying it.

[quote]Mitt Romney: We’re a nation that believes we’re all children of the same God. And we care for those that have difficulties—those that are elderly and have problems and challenges, those that disabled, we care for them. And we look for discovery and innovation, all these thing desired out of the American heart to provide the pursuit of happiness for our citizens. But we also believe in maintaining for individuals the right to pursue their dreams, and not to have the government substitute itself for the rights of free individuals. And what we’re seeing right now is, in my view, a—a trickle-down government approach which has government thinking it can do a better job than free people pursuing their dreams. And it’s not working.[/quote]

Anthony Resnick: This is the least coherent role of government answer I’ve ever heard.

Ben Hoffman: Again with the trickle-down government!

[quote]Barack Obama: You know, this is where budgets matter because budgets reflect choices. So when Governor Romney indicates that he wants to cut taxes and potentially benefit folks like me and him, and to pay for it, we’re having to initiate significant cuts in federal support for education, that makes a difference. You know, his running mate, Congressman Ryan, put forward a budget that reflects many of the principles that Governor Romney’s talked about.[/quote]

Ben Hoffman: How fast does the Internet work?

Anthony Resnick: That’s fantastic

Ben Hoffman: Also fantastic: “Budgets reflect choices.” Such an important concept, and he hits Ryan with it.

Anthony Resnick: Yeah, the hard-right ideological view of government that Ryan embodies is never going to prevail in a general election.

Ben Hoffman: Hence the obfuscation. So three different people have now texted me to say that Romney seems more impressive than Obama.

[quote]Barack Obama: And we said [with student loan reform], why not cut out the middle man? And as a consequence, what we’ve been able to do is to provide millions more students assistance, lower or keep low interest rates on student loans. And this is an example of where our priorities make a difference. Governor Romney, I genuinely believe, cares about education. But when he tells a student that, you know, you should borrow money from your parents to go to college, you know, that indicates the degree to which, you know, there may not be as much of a focus on the fact that folks like myself, folks like Michelle, kids probably who attend University of Denver just don’t have that option.[/quote]

Anthony Resnick: Nice, finally the first “out of touch rich guy” cheap shot. And in the context of student loan reform, which is such a good, common-sense reform that you can’t really argue against.

[quote]Jim Lehrer: We’re running out of time. . . . I’m certainly going give you a chance to respond to that. Yes, sir, Governor.

Mitt Romney: Mr.—Mr. President, you’re entitled, as the president, to your own airplane and to your own house, but not to your own facts—[laughter]—all right? I’m—I’m not going to cut education funding. . . . You put $90 billion into—into green jobs. And—and I—look, I’m all in favor of green energy. Ninety billion [dollars]—that—that would have—that would have hired 2 million teachers. Ninety billion dollars. And these businesses—many of them have gone out of business. I think about half of them, of the ones have been invested in, they’ve gone out of business. A number of them happened to be owned by—by people who were contributors to your campaigns.[/quote]

Anthony Resnick: Romney’s been saving that “own facts” line all debate. And, realized he hadn’t hit Solyndra enough and had to shoehorn it in.

[quote]Jim Lehrer: Many of the legislative functions of the federal government right now are in a state of paralysis as a result of partisan gridlock. If elected in your case, if re-elected in your case, what would you do about that?[/quote]

Anthony Resnick: This is a softball for Obama to just rail on Republicans.

Ben Hoffman: Yeah, I feel like Obama should be a little harsher on the Republican brand here.

Anthony Resnick: Yeah, he should bring up the McConnell “top priority” line. He must be getting advice that it looks too much like excuse making.

[quote]Mitt Romney: Jim, I had the great experience—it didn’t seem like it at the time—of being elected in a state where my legislature was 87 percent Democrat, and that meant I figured out from day one I had to get along and I had to work across the aisle to get anything done.[/quote]

Anthony Resnick: I like how he’s using the slanderous pronunciation “democrat” in boasting of his bipartisan bona fides

[quote]Jim Lehrer: That brings us to closing statements. There was a coin toss. Governor Romney, you won the toss, and you elected to go last. So you have a closing two minutes, Mr. President.[/quote]


Anthony Resnick: Maybe Jim Lehrer is kissing up to Romney in a futile hope of saving PBS?

Obama’s got two minutes left . . .

Ben Hoffman: Post-debate prediction: the MSM says a slight win for Romney. Post-debate poll proposal for undecided voters in Ohio: who is more responsible for killing Osama Bin Laden, Big Bird or Jim Lehrer?

Anthony Resnick: I think that will be the immediate reaction. Over the next few days, Obama will have had the better sound bites, most people just won’t care, and Obama will hold his lead.

Big win for Romney just by not saying any stupid rich guy stuff. Anyone who hasn’t been following closely till tonight may come away thinking, “this Romney guy’s not as bad as everyone says.” But how many of those people are out there? Anyone who came in with a strong view of either guy isn’t going to change it based on tonight.

Ben Hoffman: I’m not sure how well this debate format works. It would work much better with some sort of on-screen live-update fact checking. How can voters possibly keep track of all this? What are you on for post-game? CNN? Fox News? MSNBC?

Anthony Resnick: NBC. Pretty strong praise for Romney so far—polished and aggressive, while Obama was coasting a little too much.

Ben Hoffman: CNN Candy Crowley: Romney passed the test.

Anthony Resnick: When Romney isn’t challenged strongly, he comes off more polished, less awkward than people except. Obama has to try to get under his skin, make the “I’m the CEO, how dare you question me?”

Ben Hoffman: What wasn’t covered tonight? Gay Rights? The environment? What else?

Anthony Resnick: Yeah, social issues entirely.

Ben Hoffman: Sort of crazy—those all seem, to me, to be advantages for Obama.

Anthony Resnick: Yeah. Maybe they’re expecting more of those kind of questions from the town hall.

Ben Hoffman: High hopes for the town hall debate. For Big Bird, not so much.