Presidential Debate 2012: Live Blog

By ABC News

Oct 3, 2012 7:24pm

ABC News is liveblogging and fact-checking the first presidential debate in Denver.  ABC’s will assign a grade for each fact check, rating the candidates’ statements as fact, mostly fact, mostly fiction or fiction. Following party lines, President Obama’s fact checks are labeled in blue, and Governor Romney’s are in red.

Check out the ABC News / Yahoo! News live stream of the debate at abcn.ws/live.

Romney Advisers Happy, Obama Advisers Admit Romney Did Well – Some Choice Quotes from the Spin Room – 11:22 p.m. ET

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani:  “This was about as big a knock-out punch in a presidential debate as we’ve ever seen. Gov. Romney seems to know the facts and what he wants to do… And we had another man who was almost incomprehensible in some of his explanations, namely President Obama. He has been a failure as a president and tonight he was a failure as a debater.”

Romney Adviser Eric Fehrnsrom: “I think Gov Romney won the debate tonight. He was the clear winner. President Obama spoke in empty platitudes about where he wanted to take the country. The presidents policies aren’t working and its time for a change.”

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio: “I think the president was incredibly uncomfortable, and it was evident especially at the beginning. He was not comfortable talking about taxes and the economy. He had a few sound bites his advisors had fed him, but once he put those out there and Gov Romney was able to refute them, he had nothing else to say. In fact he told the moderator, hey let’s change the subject.”

Obama Adviser David Plouffe: “He was having a conversation with the American people about where we are and where we need to go. Romney was on the defensive all night — on his health care plan, tax plan…He has a 5 trillion dollar tax plan; he tried to dishonestly run away from that. … (Was POTUS inarticulate, off his game?) I think to the average person at home, they saw a president they can trust, that they’re very comfortable with. A sense that he’s oriented on the middle class… I think we did a much better job of that tonight than Gov Romney, who’s candidacy is really burdened right now by his huge tax cut plan…. We just have to keep convincing particulalrly the middle class in this country that whenever he makes a decision he has them in mind.”

Obama Campaign Manager Jim Messina: “Gov. Romney attacked pretty well, we understand that’s what he had to do tonight, but he didn’t lay out where he wants to take this country… The president did win this debate.”

Vice President Joe Biden Was Sunnier about Obama’s Performance – 11:21 p.m. ET -ABC’s Arlette Saenz reports:

“It’s a good night tonight folks.  Hello everybody. If you just finished watching the debate as I did, I’m sure you’re as proud of President Obama as I am,” Biden said on a livestream on the Obama campaign’s website.  “I’ve been saying for a long time this election presents the starkest choice in my memory and I think the president did a wonderful job of making it clear just how stark that choice is.”

Biden served as the first surrogate to reach out to voters after the evening’s presidential debate in Colorado.  The campaign said Biden’s livestream reached over 4,000 debate watch parties across the country.

The vice president said Romney “laid out a fundamentally different philosophy” from the president – one that calls for “massive tax cuts for the wealthy” without explanation of how he would pay for them without placing additional burdens on the middle class.

 

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Romney Fact Check #7: Romney’s Bipartisan Record — 10:36 p.m.: Governor Romney: First of all, I liked the way we did it in Massachusetts.  I like that in my state we had Republicans and Democrats come together and work together.  

Shush Walshe has the facts:

Did Romney work across the aisle for his health care plan in Massachusetts?

Michael Widmer, from Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation (non-partisan group) says both the Massachusetts legislature and Romney DID come together to get everyone in the state insured. They had the same goal and were successful. Yes, Romney put out the idea, but the legislature helped to craft the plan.

Is Obamacare based on Romney’s plan?

Romney worked with the legislature yes, but he spearheaded two parts of it that are essential to the president’s plan: the individual mandate and the health care exchanges.

The administration did use Romney’s advisors as the president said. MIT’s Jonathan Gruber is the biggest name who worked with both.

Health care was a rare exception where he worked with the legislature in his state, according to  Widmer.

Widmer says the legislature was “frustrated usually” with Romney because he wanted to govern like a “CEO” and “didn’t pay heed to the legislature and they resented that.”

He says it was very different than one of his predecessors and now a big support, Bill Weld who did work with Democrats in the state.

Romney was also bragging about Massachusetts being number one in education. Widmer says those reforms actually took place ten years before in 1993 under Weld.

 

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Romney Fact Check #6: Oil and Gas Only on Private Lands — 10:29 p.m.: Governor Romney: Mr. President all of the increase in natural gas and oil has happened on private land. Not on government land on government land, your Administration has cut the numbers of permit and licenses in half.

Arlette Saenz has the facts:

Mitt Romney claimed that under the Obama administration, the number of drilling permits and licenses on government lands has been cut in half, but that estimate is not quite factual according to data from the Bureau of Land Management.

“President, all of the increase in natural gas and oil has happened on private land. Not on government land.  On government land, your Administration has cut the numbers of permit and licenses in half,” Romney said.

Data from the BLM shows that the number of drilling permits on federal lands approved during the fiscal years President Obama has been in office has decreased somewhere between 20 and 37 percent compared to the years before he became president -  not the 50 percent Romney claimed.

Source is here.

 

 Presidential Debate 2012: Live Blog

Obama Fact Check #5: Seniors Pay $6,000 More Under Romney— 10:25 p.m.: President Obama: The problem is that because the voucher wouldn’t necessarily keep up with health care inflation, it was estimated this would cost the average senior $6,000 a year

Chris Good has the facts:

This figure is based on an outdated analysis of Paul Ryan’s Medicare-reform plan.

Looking at Ryan’s 2011 plan, the Congressional Budget Office estimated seniors would pay more for their health care under Ryan’s plan. The CBO projected that by 2022, seniors would pay 61 percent of their health care costs, versus 27 percent under current law. At the time, Ryan questioned the CBO’s assessment.

The $6,000 figure comes from a Center for Budget and Policy Priorities study, based on the CBO’s analysis, which projected that seniors’ out-of-pocket costs would rise from $6,150 to $12,500 per year on average under Ryan’s plan.

Since then, Ryan has made some changes to his plan, including a catastrophic-care benefit, more generous growth of “premium-support payments,” and a government health plan as an alternative to private plans, from which seniors would choose on an exchange. It is the more recent plan that Romney supports.

So, while the $6,000 estimate applies to a previous iteration of Ryan’s plan, and while that plan bears the same basic features, both the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein have said it’s wrong to apply that number to Ryan’s current Medicare proposal.

 

 

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Romney Fact Check #5: Millions Losing Health Care Under Obama — 10:22 p.m.:

Part one: Governor Romney: Right now the CBO says up to 20 million people will lose their insurance as Obamacare goes into effect next year.

John Parkinson has the facts:

That claim is based on a report from CBO.  Politfact says it’s FALSE.

KEY SECTION: ”That number is cherry-picked, and he’s wrong to describe it as only including people who “like” their coverage, since many of those 20 million will be leaving employer coverage voluntarily for better options. Romney also ignores that under the status quo, many more people today “lose” coverage than even the highest, cherry-picked CBO estimate. We rate his statement False.”

 

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Part two: Governor Romney: McKinsey and Company of American businesses said 30% of them are anticipating dropping people from coverage.

Here’s that study.

KEY PART: Overall, 30 percent of employers will definitely or probably stop offering ESI in the years after 2014.

 

 

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Romney Fact Check #4: Pre-Existing Conditions — 10:20 p.m.:  Governor Romney: Number one, pre existing conditions are covered under my plan.

Z. Byron Wolf has the facts:

Here is an extremely detailed fact check on pre-existing conditions.

Mitt Romney does not think insurance companies should have to cover people with pre-existing conditions who have not had continuous health care coverage.

The Affordable Care Act, on the other hand, created special health care plans in 2010 for people who have  pre-existing conditions, and by 2014 it will prohibit  insurance companies from denying coverage to anyone because of a pre-existing condition.

It is not a small population who would be cut from health care coverage  under a proposal similar to what Romney has suggested. A Health and Human Services  report published in January 2011 estimated that between 50 million and 129 million people currently have a pre-existing condition in the eyes of  insurance companies. Twenty-five  million of those do not have health insurance, according to the report.  That number does not take into account those who have had gaps in coverage, suggesting a much larger number of people have pre-existing conditions but have not had continuous coverage.

Continuous coverage generally means having nonstop coverage.  Gaps of no more than 63 days can be allowed when changing insurance companies.

But as the Washington Post pointed out, people who have health insurance and a pre-existing condition are largely protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, which was enacted in 1996, and limits how employer-sponsored plans can deny coverage  because of pre-existing conditions, and how far back they can search for them.

 

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Romney Fact Check #3: Government Expenditures are Excessive Like Spain — 10:17 p.m.:  Governor Romney: Spain — Spain spends 42 percent of their total economy on government. We’re now spending 42 percent of our economy on government. I don’t want to go down the path to Spain. I want to go down the path of growth that puts Americans to work with more money coming in because they’re working.

Dana Hughes has the facts:

According to the non-partisan CBO, and Mitt Romney’s own website, U.S. federal government spending is about 23 percent of GDP.

A table produced by the White House Office of Management and Budget that includes federal, state, local and Medicare and Social Security spending is a bit closer to Romney’s 42 percent. That table suggests total government expenditures at 35 percent for 2010. Still seven percent below what Romney suggested.

Romney seems to get his numbers at the debate from the 2012 Index of economic freedom put out by the Wall Street Journal and the Heritage Foundation:

United States: “Government expenditures have grown to 42.2 percent of GDP,”
Spain: “Government spending has increased to a level equivalent to 45.8 percent of GDP”

But according to that report, guess who else spends 42%+ on government? New Zealand, The United Kingdom, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, hardly countries in economic decline. The key seems to be not on what a country spends on government alone, but how it balances with the country’s deficit and public debt.
For example, Niger only spends 25.5% of its economy on government, is Governor Romney saying the United States wants to go down that path?

 

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Romney Fact Check #2: Obama Wants to Cut Medicare — 10:14 p.m.:  Governor Romney: What I support is no change for current retirees and near retirees to Medicare. And the President supports taking $716 billion out of that program. 

Serena Marshall has the facts:

Romney’s claim that Obama wants to cut Medicare by $716 billion dollars is a misconstrued statement.  What Obama did was, through the Affordable Care Act, reduce growth of Medicare over 10 years. This reduction in growth would actually benefit Medicare beneficiaries by extending the life of Medicare. Obama’s reduction plan comes through at payments to hospitals as part of Medicare Part A.

Moreover, Medicare does not have nearly 716-billion available to take out of their fund (if that was Obama’s plan, which it is NOT). According to CMS, at the end of 2011 the current fund has around 244-billion

Find a longer explanation from Fact Check.

 

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Obama Fact Check #4: Under Romney’s Plan, Donald Trump is a Small Business— 10:11 p.m.:  President Obama: But under Governor Romney’s definition, there are a whole bunch of millionaires and billionaires who are small businesses. Donald Trump is a small business. Now, I know Donald Trump doesn’t like to think of himself as small anything, but — but that’s how you define small businesses if you’re getting business income.

Greg Krieg has the facts:

Under Mitt Romney’s plan, all “small businesses” would receive a 20 percent tax cut. By his definition, the size of a business is defined solely by the amount of people it employs. Any company with 500 or fewer workers is deemed “small.” There is no revenue cap, so no matter how much money the business makes, if the payroll does not exceed 500 people, it would benefit from this reduced rate.

By that definition, a “small business” like Trump’s Trump Tower Sales & Leasing (20 employees, nearly a million dollars in annual profits) or, for example, an NFL team like the Dallas Cowboys could be called “small businesses.”

But The Trump Organization has 22,450 employees, according to this CNN Money article.

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Obama Fact Check #3: Romney Would Raise Defense Spending — 10:04 p.m.:  President Obama: This is where there is a difference because Governor Romney’s central economic plan calls for a 5 trillion dollar tax cut on top of the extension of the Bush tax cuts so that is another trillion dollars. (11) And two trillion dollars in additional military spending that the military hasn’t asked for.

Luis Martinez has the facts:

The Romney campaign has said that it would like to see spending for Defense increased to 4% of GDP.   In May, Travis Sharp from the Center for  a New American Security worked for CNN Money to calculate that raising defense spending to that percentage of GDP would be the same as $2.1 trillion in additional spending over the next 10 years.

I believe Obama is saying that the military hasn’t asked for that spending because the Department of Defense has submitted budgets based on strategic interests that are in line with Obama administration cuts over the next decade.

On the Romney campaign website you find this quote:

•             Requires spending cuts of approximately $500 billion per year in 2016 assuming robust economic recovery with 4% annual growth, and reversal of irresponsible Obama-era defense cuts

Current Defense spending levels are estimated to be 3.5 for what’s called base Defense spending.

Previous supporters of increasing that to 4% GDP include Gates and Mullen.

On November 26, 2007 at the Alf Landon lecture then Defense Secretary Gates said military spending then by adding the costs of the wars pushed military spending to 4% .  He called that percentage serves as a benchmark,as a rough floor of how much we should spend on defense.”  Here’s the full quote “Overall, our current military spending amounts to about 4 percent of GDP, below the historic norm and well below previous wartime periods. Nonetheless, we use this benchmark as a rough floor of how much we should spend on defense. We lack a similar benchmark for other departments and institutions.

On February 1, 2008  Adm. Mike Mullen said;

I believe that we need to have a broad public discussion about what we should spend on defense. I’ve been very clear about my belief that a 4 percent floor, a 4 percent of GDP floor is really that, and I am concerned and I — this comes from my evolution as a service chief, where we worked very hard to efficiently and effectively invest for the future, and in that development, I’ve gotten to a point where I think — I really do believe — this 4 percent floor is important. And it’s — and it’s really important, given the world we’re living in, given the threats that we see out there, the risks that are, in fact, global, not just in the Middle East, and that we as a nation need to be very careful about how we’re going to invest in defense in order to handle these kinds of challenges which are going to — while will persist for the foreseeable future.

Obama Speaking to the People — 10:01 p.m.: ABC News’ Devin Dwyer reports from Denver:

On several occasions tonight – Obama is demonstrating his skill at looking directly into the camera, speaking directly to his televised audience.

His aides, you’ll recall, had said Obama’s strategy tonight was to have a “conversation” with the American people as much as possible.

He’s now selling his plan.

The Donald in Denver — 9:56 p.m.: ABC News’ Michael Falcone reports from Denver:

Neither candidate is letting this debate go by without mentioning the real estate mogul and reality television star who has loomed so large over the entire election cycle: Donald Trump.

Obama trotted out Trump as he tried to knock Romney’s small business tax plan:

OBAMA: “We do have a difference, though, when it comes to definitions of small business. Under — under my plan, 97 percent of small businesses would not see their income taxes go up. Governor Romney says, well, those top 3 percent, they’re the job creators, they’d be burdened. But under Governor Romney’s definition, there are a whole bunch of millionaires and billionaires who are small businesses. Donald Trump is a small business. Now, I know Donald Trump doesn’t like to think of himself as small anything, but — but that’s how you define small businesses if you’re getting business income.”

And Romney found a way to work Trump into a subsequent response on the president’s tax plan:

ROMNEY: “The economy is still growing slow. As a matter of fact, it’s growing much more slowly now than when you made that statement. And so if you believe the same thing, you just don’t want to raise taxes on people. And the reality is it’s not just wealthy people — you mentioned Donald Trump. It’s not just Donald Trump you’re taxing. It’s all those businesses that employ one-quarter of the workers in America; these small businesses that are taxed as individuals. You raise taxes and you kill jobs. That’s why the National Federation of Independent Businesses said your plan will kill 700,000 jobs. I don’t want to kill jobs in this environment.”

Romney Zinger — 9:45 p.m.: ABC News’ Abby Phillip reports:

Responding to Obama’s assertion that companies get tax breaks for shipping jobs oversees Romney pushes back hard: “I’ve been in business for 25 years, I have no idea what you’re talking about. I maybe need to get a new accountant. The idea that you get breaks for shipping jobs overseas is simply not the case.”

Romney Fact Check #1: Rising Health Care Costs Under Obama — 9:41 p.m.: Governor Romney:  Health care costs have gone up by $2500 a family.

ABC News’ Serena Marshall reports:

Factcheck.org labeled this claim false. Read their assessment from September here. From their assessment:

“Romney appears to have mixed up two statistics here: Obama’s promise to reduce health insurance premiums by $2,500 (an optimistic claim we have questioned several times, ever since the soon-to-be president first made the promise on the campaign trail) and the actual rise in insurance premiums. As we reported in March, the average cost of a family policy rose by $1,300 between 2010 and 2011, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s annual survey (Exhibit 1.110). (Even if you include the year before — so 2009 to 2011 — the increase was $1,700, not $2,500.)

Moreover, the $1,300 rise in premiums between 2010 and 2011 is the total cost for both employers and employees — not $1,300 out of pocket for the average family. In fact, the Kaiser Family Foundation report said that the increase in what workers contribute wasn’t “a statistically significant increase over the 2010 values.”

Romney often implies that Obama’s health care law is to blame for the rise in premiums, but when we looked into that issue last October, experts told us it was only responsible for a small portion of the increase. Specifically, they said, more generous coverage requirements in the law caused premiums to go up by 1 percent to 3 percent, while all told, premiums went up 9 percent. The bulk of the increase was tied to rising health care costs.”

 

 Presidential Debate 2012: Live Blog

Obama Fact Check #2: Obama Could Cut $4 Trillion — 9:38 p.m. President Obama: I 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. 

Jon Karl’s Rating:

Does President Obama have a plan to cut the deficit by $4 trillion?

No.  The “$4 trillion plan” he is referring to includes about $1 trillion Congress has already agreed to and $1 trillion in savings from ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which are already ending.

This would be Mostly Fiction.

Greg Krieg has the facts:

The $4 trillion figure achieved a certain status in Washington when the much-disputed, ultimately ignored, Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction commission pegged it as the cuts their proposals would have yielded over ten years.

So does Obama manage to get there on his own?

The answer: Only if everything goes exactly as planned.

The first $1 trillion in cuts are already on the books. As he noted in his speech, the president negotiated them with Congress last summer. More cuts are banked by letting the Bush tax cuts expire (the top marginal rate would return to 39.5 percent from 35 percent) and closing a number of arcane loopholes, all of which, in theory, would have a multiplier effect as the resulting interest payments on the national debt would be lessened.

Then there’s the issue of military spending. The Congressional Budget Office has already worked nearly a trillion dollars of war expenses into its long-term deficit projections. President Obama, by ending the war in Iraq and winding combat operations in Afghanistan (by 2014), is subtracting that as-yet-unspent money from the future debt load.

 Presidential Debate 2012: Live Blog

Obama Fact Check #1 — 9:35 p.m.: President Obama: This is where there is a difference because Governor Romney’s central economic plan calls for a 5 trillion dollar tax cut on top of the extension of the Bush tax cuts so that is another trillion dollars. And two trillion dollars in additional military spending that the military hasn’t asked for. That is 8 trillion dollars. How we pay for that, reduce the deficit and make the investments that we need to make without dumping those costs on the middle class Americans is one of the central questions of this campaign.

Jon Karl’s Rating:

Sorry.  That is not correct.

Obama is not accurate when he says Romney’s plan will add $5 trillion to the deficit.  Romney has said his tax plan will be revenue neutral.  Romney has not provided the details on how he will pay for his tax rate cut, but that does not mean the President can make the details up for him.

This claim would be Mostly Fiction.

Amy Bingham has the facts:

Mitt Romney has said repeatedly, and said again from the debate stage tonight, that his tax plan will be revenue-neutral and will not add to the deficit. But he has yet to outline exactly how he would pay for his plan.

So far the only specifics he has offered on how to pay for his 20 percent across-the-board rate reduction and collection of other tax cutting measures is to eliminate tax “loopholes” for high income earners.

Without these specifics, an analysis by the non-partisan Tax Policy Center estimated that his tax cuts would strip $5 trillion from federal revenues over the next decade, or $456 billion per year.

Romney’s tax plan could add $5 trillion to the deficit. But that is an estimate on an incomplete tax plan. Romney insists that when his plan goes from an election-year outline to a Congress-ready proposal he will include provisions that will ensure it will not add to the deficit. The issue is that no one knows what those provisions are just yet.

Source: Mitt Romney’s website

The Empathetic Romney — 9:17 p.m. ABC News’ Michael Falcone reports from Denver:

It’s clear that Mitt Romney got the memo: Get personal. In his answer to the first question at the debate about how he would create jobs he personalized his response, pointing to struggling Americans who he and his wife, Ann, have met on the campaign trail. “Can you help us?” Romney quoted one of those voters as saying.

Remember what our own recent ABC News poll showed on questions of personal likeability and empathy — on both scores Obama has the advantage.

Romney’s lack of an advantage in trust on the economy leaves room for personal attributes to come into play, and on these he’s generally vulnerable. One has worsened for him: Registered voters by 52-40 percent say they’d prefer Obama as the captain if they were on a ship in a storm, opening up from a 46-43 percent split last month.

In other, lighthearted measures, Obama leads Romney by anywhere from 14 to 25 points on whom registered voters would rather go camping with, have as a dinner guest, see as a contestant on Dancing with the Stars, or whose music playlist they’d rather hear. Helpfully for Romney, though, the two are even on another measure – one that requires the greatest level of personal responsibility: Whom you’d rather have babysit for your kids.

Apart from babysitting, these measures add up to personal likeability, and on a direct measure of that attribute Obama retains his single biggest advantage, 62-29 percent over Romney. However it’s empathy, not likeability, that far more strongly predicts vote preference, and on that, as noted, Obama’s advantage is 13 points, not 33.

Here is what Romney said:

“This is obviously a very tender topic. I’ve had the occasion over the last couple of years of meeting people across the country. I was in Dayton, Ohio, and a woman grabbed my arm, and she said, ‘I’ve been out of work since May. Can you help me?’

Ann yesterday was at a rally in Denver, and a woman came up to her with a baby in her arms, and said, ‘Ann, my husband has had four jobs in three years, part-time jobs. He’s lost his most recent job. And we’ve now just lost our home. Can you help us?’

And the answer is, yes, we can help, 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. “

Romney Repeats Biden Gaffe — 9:13 p.m. ABC News’ Devin Dwyer reports from Denver:

Wednesday night Mitt Romney used the same language that Vice President Biden used on the trail on Tuesday saying “middle income Americans have been buried”…. Middle income Americans have been “crushed” over the past four years.

Republicans have been hammering Biden and the Obama campaign for the remark.

A reminder that Biden said in Charlotte: “How they can justify, how they can justify raising taxes on the middle class that has been buried the last four years, how in the Lord’s name can they justify raising their taxes.  We’ve seen this movie before.”

Obama wishes Michelle Obama Happy Anniversary — 9:06 p.m. ABC News’ Abby Phillip reports:

President Barack Obama opened the debate with 20th Anniversary shout out to his wife in the audience, Michelle Obama.

“Twenty years ago I became the luckiest man on earth when you agreed to marry me,” Obama said. “I just want to wish you, sweetie, a happy anniversary.”

“A year from now we will not be celebrating it in front of 40 million people,” he added.

For his part, Mitt Romney offered his congratulations to the first couple and joked: “I’m sure this was the most romantic place you could imagine, here with me!”

Debate Don’t: What Obama Shouldn’t Say in His Opening Statement — 9:00 p.m. ABC News’ Amy Bingham looks at how the president shouldn’t start off the debate:

Up to 60 million viewers are expected to tune into tonight’s first presidential debate, at least for the first few minutes.

If President Obama and Mitt Romney want to keep those possible voters hooked beyond their opening statements, Yahoo! finance’s Jeff Macke said they need to come out swinging.

Read what Macke had to say here.

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Image credit: Charlie Neibergall/AP Photo

Before Debate, Romney Hunkers Down with Family, Clutches Ann’s Hand En Route to Debate — 8:26 p.m. ABC News’ Emily Friedman reports from Denver:

In the hours leading up to tonight’s debate, it was all about family time for Mitt Romney.

After huddling with several members of his senior staff as well as Sen. Rob Portman, Romney was photographed by his body man, Garrett Jackson, hanging on the couch in his Denver hotel suite with several of his grandchildren by his side. Four of his five sons also joined Romney for some pre-debate downtime.

They watched television – no, not pre-debate shows – and ate dinner, take out from the Cheesecake Factory. Romney ate a BBQ sandwich and some spaghetti.

Before departing the hotel for the debate site, Romney and his wife Ann appeared to have a moment of reflection, peering out the window of their hotel room, Romney with his arm around his wife’s waist.

In yet another photo taken by Jackson, Romney clutched Ann’s hand as they drove over in their motorcade, Ann dressed in a winter white suit and Romney in a white shirt.

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Image credit: Charles Dharapak/AP Photo

See more photos here.

Gauging the Mood on the Way in to the Big Night — 8:09 p.m. What are the campaigns saying on the way into the debate?

We talked to Romney adviser Kevin Madden and Obama spokesman Ben Labolt at high noon. Take a look: http://abcn.ws/QYmA5y


Presidential Debates: How Do Candidates Prepare? — 8:00 p.m. ABC News’ Dan Kloeffler stages mock debate with senior citizens to analyze how a successful argument is made.

Watch here.

Helping Grandpa Prep — 7:57 p.m. Earlier tonight Romney’s body man tweeted a photo of the candidate and his granddaughter, Mia.

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Image credit: @dgjackson/Twitter

What We’re Saying on World News — 7:35 p.m. Check out World News’ look at Romney and Obama’s respective debate strengths.

What They’re Saying in Colorado — 7:18 p.m. “There’s an awful lot of liberals in this state from New York, California – They call themselves independents, but they’re really not.” – ABC’s Michael Falcone got an earful in Colorado today from 73 year-old Ken Carpenter and a lot of other Coloradons paying attention to the debates tonight – http://abcn.ws/WkKeNx (Michael Falcone)

Catch up on the Day — 7:16 p.m. Our PM Note includes all the debate preps from today, the strategic state of play for both campaigns, how Obama turned a referendum election into a “choice” election and a lot more. Read it here.

Dinner Before the Debates — 6:50 p.m. ABC News’ Emily Friedman reports the GOP candidate is dining on fare from the Cheesecake Factory with his wife, Ann, four of his sons and a handful of grandkids at their hotel.

Earlier tonight Tagg Romney tweeted a photo of “the brain trust” prepping for the debate.

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Image credit: @tromney/Twitter


Nixon Admits 1960 Debate Prep Was ‘Totally Wrong’ — 6:45 p.m. ABC News’ Amy Bingham reports on audio tapes of former President Richard Nixon provided exclusively to ABC News:

“He was exhausted, sweaty and pale. His shirt was one size too big and five shades too light. And after a full day of campaigning, he was tired and anxious, all things a candidate does not want to be during his first televised presidential debate.

“It was this sickly demeanor that made Republican Vice President Richard Nixon’s first televised presidential debate appearance go down in history as one of the worst. And in tapes released exclusively to ABC News today, Nixon was poignantly aware of how poor his performance was in that 1960 presidential debate against Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kennedy.”

Read more.

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