ThinkProgress’ LiveBlog Of The First Presidential Debate

Welcome to ThinkProgress’ live coverage of the first presidential debate, hosted by the University of Denver, in Colorado. Our teams in Washington D.C. and on the ground in Denver will fact-check both candidates’ claims in real time and offer a wide range of multimedia content. Tonight’s debate is moderated by PBS’ Jim Lehrer and will focus on domestic policy.

08:37 PM: In just a couple more minutes….

The debate will begin with 15 minutes of discussion in six topic areas. Host Jim Lehrer hopes to get the candidates to “ask each other questions and wrangle, like guests on Sunday TV talk shows.” Romney has rehearsed a lot of zingers for the occasion.

08:38 PM: It’s also game night for the Romney family

Backstage, the Romney family is playing Jenga:

08:45 PM: Anniversary

Today is Michelle and Barack’s 20th wedding anniversary. This is certainly one way to celebrate, though they will wait until Saturday to properly toast their marriage.

08:47 PM: Lehrer is a veteran

In more ways than one: he served in the Marine Corps from 1956 to 1959, and this is his 12th debate. Lehrer first played moderator during the 1988 debate debate between Vice President George H. W. Bush and Governor Michael Dukakis.

08:58 PM: President Obama arrives at Denver University

The presidential motorcade pulled onto the campus of Denver University just before 6:30pm local time, met with cheering crowds on one side and protestors on the other.

09:06 PM: Obama mentions that the auto industry is coming back

Indeed, a total of 1.19 million automobiles were sold in September, a 13 percent increase from a year ago and the highest point in four years, the New York Times reported today. Sales across the industry are up 14.5 percent this year compared to the first nine months of 2011, bolstered by strong domestic performances from foreign manufacturers like Toyota and Honda.

09:07 PM: Romney’s first zinger of the night?

Remarking on the Obama’s 20th wedding anniversary, Romney quips, “I’m sure this is the most romantic place you can imagine, here with me.”

09:08 PM: Obama still needs to help the housing market

Obama opens with a nod to “housing is starting rise.” Housing policies haven’t been a bright point of his administration. While the economy is back on the right track, the housing market is still floundering.

09:08 PM: Romney claims he won’t cut taxes for the rich

Romney just said Obama is misrepresenting his policy and that he wouldn’t cut taxes for the rich. But if Romney were to actually implement his plan to reduce tax rates by 20 percent while eliminating tax deductions in order to pay for it, taxpayers with more than $200,000 would certainly see a tax cut. But everyone else — 95 percent of Americans — will see their taxes increase. And this result occurs even assuming that Romney would eliminate tax deductions so as to make the tax as progressive as possible:

09:10 PM: Romney claims his economic plan will create jobs

However, an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute shows that his plan would “lead to employment losses of 608,000 in 2013 and roughly 1.3 million in 2014,″ largely due to the deep spending cuts he envisions.

09:12 PM: Romney: ‘I don’t have a tax cut … I’m not looking for massive tax cuts’

Romney claims that he doesn’t cut taxes as much as Obama claims. It reminiscent of something he told small businesses last month:

09:15 PM: Romney incorrectly claims oil production on federal lands is down

Romney hits Obama on oil and gas production on public lands, saying “All of the increase has happened on private land.” But oil production from federal lands is higher, not lower: Production from federal lands is up slightly in 2011 when compared to 2007. And the oil and gas industry is sitting on 7,000 approved permits to drill, that it hasn’t begun exploring or developing.

09:17 PM: Romney claims his tax plan wouldn’t contribute to the deficit

But when his vice presidential running mate Paul Ryan was pressed on Fox News how a Romney administration plans to pay for their proposed tax plan, he said he didn’t have time to answer the question.

09:18 PM: Romney’s economic studies don’t say what he thinks

Romney claims that there are several economic studies showing that his economic plan won’t raise taxes on the middle class, even assuming that it doesn’t add to the deficit. However, those studies actually confirm that Romney’s math doesn’t add up. Two of the “studies” are just editorials from the right-wing editorial board of the Wall Street Journal.

09:18 PM: Romney’s tax plan won’t reduce the debt

Obama is right that Romney’s plan won’t reduce the deficit. Even if Romney meets his goal of reducing federal spending to 20 percent of GDP by 2016, his enormous $5 trillion in tax cuts and higher defense spending target means that he’ll follow the footsteps of George W. Bush and explode the nation’s deficit:

09:20 PM: Obama: ‘He’s saying that his big, bold idea is never mind’

The president goes after Romney’s claim that his tax plan won’t blow up the debt or increase taxes on the middle class. He explains that it is impossible to reduce tax rates by 20 percent across the board and pay for them by closing loopholes that benefit the wealthy. There are not enough deductions in the tax code. Romney would either have to raise taxes on the middle class or add to the deficit.

09:23 PM: Romney’s job creation standard for himself is on par with expectations

When it comes to job creation in a Romney presidency, the candidate has previously promised he’d create 3 million jobs a year. That’s not a staggering number; it’s what is expected no matter who’s president.

09:28 PM: A net job gain

Romney is attacking Obama on jobs. Job creation is net positive since Obama took office in the middle of the worst recession since the great depression. Economists estimate that up to 3 million jobs were created by the stimulus alone:

09:29 PM: Public sector job loss is our big downfall

In the throes of the recession, jobs were being lost at every sector. But as the economy recovered, the private sector has made huge leaps in recovery while, largely thanks to the kinds of deep cuts to programs like PBS that Romney just bragged about eliminating, the public sector is still bleeding jobs:

09:30 PM: The US has the lowest corporate tax rate in the developed world

The U.S. already has the second lowest effective corporate tax rate in the world, and is raising historically low amounts of revenue from the corporate income tax. The U.S. effective corporate tax rate is low compared to other developed economies, while U.S. corporations are taxed less than their foreign rivals:

09:31 PM: Things Romney doesn’t think are critical

Romney says he will eliminate all federal spending on programs by asking “is it so critical it’s worth borrowing money for China.” Things Romney has said America doesn’t need include “more firemen, more policemen, more teachers.”

09:32 PM: Romney says he wants to eliminate federal funding for PBS

PBS receives $445 million from the federal government. 69 percent of voters oppose proposals to cut public broadcasting funds.

09:35 PM: Romney doesn’t want to talk about Simpson-Bowles

His running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), was on the bipartisan commission and led House Republicans in blocking a debt reduction agreement.

09:37 PM: Romney: ‘You never balance the budget by raising taxes’

President Clinton raised taxes on the wealthiest Americans in 1993 and cut spending, without one Republican vote, for deficit reduction. The policies brought America to the first federal budget surpluses in a generation.

09:37 PM: Making it easier for corporations to dodge taxes

Obama’s attack on Romney’s leniency on corporate taxes is well-founded: Romney’s plan to shift the country to a territorial tax system would allow corporations to do business and make profits overseas without ever being taxed on it in the United States. This encourages American companies to invest abroad and could cost the country up to 800,000 jobs.

09:38 PM: Obama: ‘Does anyone think ExxonMobil needs extra money?’

Obama hits Romney for his support to maintain $4 billion in subsidies for the oil industry. In fact, the five largest oil companies –- BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Shell –- made a combined $137 billion in 2011, and $60 billion in the first half of 2012. And while Romney calls for an end to tax breaks for wind power, his economic plan gives the largest five oil companies another $2.3 billion in tax breaks.

09:39 PM: Obama explains how Romney’s 30 percent cut in Medicaid funding will hurt families

A Bloomberg Government study found “Romney’s changes to Medicaid would lead to an estimated $1.26 trillion drop in federal funding from 2014 through 2022.” Some 44 million Americans could lose coverage as a result:

09:42 PM: Romney claims he’s never heard of a business getting a tax cut for moving jobs overseas

And if there is anyone who knows something about moving jobs overseas, it’s Mitt Romney.

09:43 PM: Romney says he will protect Social Security

In his 2010 book “No Apology,” Romney called the program “out-of-control,” a terrible burden on future generations, and effectively a fraud. He and his running mate have both backed partial privatization schemes.

09:44 PM: The $716 Billion Lie

There’s that number again. Romney is claiming that Obamacare siphons off $716 billion from Medicare, to the detriment of beneficiaries. In actuality, that money is saved primarily through reducing over-payments to insurance companies under Medicare Advantage, not payments to beneficiaries. Paul Ryan’s budget plan keeps those same cuts, but directs them toward tax cuts for the rich and deficit reduction.

09:45 PM: Big Bird responds on Twitter

Responding to Romney’s claims that he’d cut funding for PBS, fake Big Bird profiles are already popping up on Twitter to protest:

09:46 PM: Well, does he support the voucher program?

In case you missed it, Romney just dodged on answering whether he supports a voucher program for Medicare. Watch it:

09:47 PM: Romney’s Medicare proposal will impact current seniors

Here is how: private plans will cherry pick the healthiest applicants and leave sicker, more expensive beneficiaries in traditional Medicare. This is where things can spiral out of control. Higher premiums encourage healthier beneficiaries who are still in traditional Medicare to opt into the private coverage, increasing costs even higher. As the size of the Medicare population shrinks, “administrative costs would rise relative to benefit payments, traditional Medicare’s power to demand lower payment rates from providers would erode, and providers would have less incentive to participate in the program. As a result, people now age 55 and older might well face higher premiums and cost sharing for traditional Medicare, a more limited choice of providers, or both.”

09:49 PM: Current Medicare retirees will also experience cost increases under Romney

Romney/Ryan repeal the Affordable Care Act’s savings, beneficiaries will face higher cost sharing and premiums (particularly for preventive services) and seniors who have received prescription drug discounts, will now pay more for their medications. What’s more, Romney/Ryan would lower Medicaid spending significantly beginning next year, shifting federal spending to states and beneficiaries, and increasing costs for the 9 million Medicare recipients who are dependent on Medicaid:

09:53 PM: Romney wants to deregulate Wall Street

Romney says he wants to replace Dodd-Frank. He has previously called for the repeal of Dodd-Frank, a law whose specific purpose is to regulate banks. MF Global’s use of customer funds to pay for its own trading losses is just one bit of proof that the financial industry isn’t responsible enough to protect consumers without regulation.

09:54 PM: Obama reminds Romney that deregulation caused an economic meltdown

The financial crisis, caused by deregulation, cost the economy $12.8 trillion.

09:55 PM: Hiring hasn’t slowed because of regulation

Hiring hasn’t slowed because of regulation, as proven by the fact that employers aren’t working employees at maximum hours. Obama signed off on 4.7 percent fewer regulations than Bush did during his first 33 months,.

09:55 PM: Dodd Frank isn’t a ‘killer’ for small banks

Romney has called Dodd-Frank “a killer” for small banks. In fact, “the bulk of the bill’s new regulations apply only to a few dozen of the largest [banks], each holding more than $50 billion in assets.”

09:58 PM: Romney’s false claim on too-big-to-fail banks

Romney claimed that a provision of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law labels certain banks as “too big to fail,” thereby giving them “a blank check.” That’s not true: the law merely says that the biggest, systemically risky banks need to abide by more stringent regulations. If those banks fail, they will be unwound by a new process in the Dodd-Frank law that protects taxpayers from having to pony up for a bailout

10:00 PM: Romney: ‘I like the way we did it in Massachusetts’

Despite his Massachusetts plan having been the basis for Obamacare and Romney’s praise for his own health care program, the former governor wants to repeal President Obama’s national health care reform plan. This would leave 72 million people without insurance under Romney’s plan — more than would be without Obamacare:

And out-of-pocket spending and premiums would also increase:

10:02 PM: Romney’s fear mongers on Obamacare

Romney’s plan to repeal Obama care will actually increase the federal deficit by$109 billion over the 2013–2022 period” and lead 30 million of Americans to lose insurance. Unfortunately, under Romney’s plan 72 million would lose health coverage:

Out-of-pocket spending and premiums would also increase:

10:03 PM: What you should know about Obamacare

Romney just unleashed a long attack about Obamacare. Here are the facts you should know about the legislation.

1. It creates jobs. Obamacare isn’t a job killer like Romney says it is. The Center for American Progress estimates that Obamacare will create around 4 million jobs across different sectors of the economy.


2. Seniors aren’t affected by Obama’s Medicare cuts Obamacare “cut Medicare reimbursements to hospitals and insurers, not benefits for older Americans.” Repealing the savings — as Romney wants to do — would hasten the insolvency of Medicare by eight years.

3. People have already seaved money as a result of Obamacare. 16 million seniors are receiving preventive benefits without deductibles or co-pays and are saving at least $3.9 billion on prescription drugs. Millions of young adults now have insurance coverage and are staying bon their parent’s health care plan.

4. Obamacare isn’t responsible for increasing health care costsHealth costs have been increasing before Obamacare became law and they will rise after it is fully implemented. But its cost control mechanisms will slow the rate of growth over time.

10:07 PM: Romney: ‘we didn’t raise taxes’ to pay for Massachusetts health care reform

That’s because federal government subsidies paid for large portions of the plan.

10:09 PM: Obama highlights the virtue of coordinated care

Romney claims that Obamacare will lead to lower health care quality for Americans. But multiple studies and even top private insurance officials have confirmed that Obamacare’s incentives for preventive and coordinated care are already encouraging efficiency in the health care system.

10:10 PM: Romney is just plain wrong about ‘the board’

The Board, or IPAB — a provision included in the Affordable Care Act — is tasked with making binding recommendations to Congress for lowering health care spending, should Medicare costs exceed a target growth rate. Congress can accept the savings proposal or implement its own ideas through a super majority.


The panel’s plan will modify payments to providers but it cannot “include any recommendation to ration health care, raise revenues or Medicare beneficiary premiums…increase Medicare beneficiary cost-sharing (including deductibles, coinsurance, and co- payments), or otherwise restrict benefits or modify eligibility criteria” (Section 3403 of the ACA). Relying on health care experts rather than politicians to control health care costs has previously attracted bipartisan support and even Ryan himself proposed two IPAB-like structures in a 2009 health plan.

10:11 PM: Romney’s health plan won’t cover the pre-existing conditions of the uninsured

Romney says his plan deals with pre-existing conditions, but it would only keep insurers from taking away coverage, doing nothing for Americans with pre-existing conditions who are not able to get an insurance plan. As a result, 72 million people would be unable to obtain insurance, more than if Obamacare had never been passed.

10:13 PM: Romney’s concedes that Romneycare is a ‘model’

The governor explains that his Massachusetts health care plan is a “model for the nation state-by-state.” Indeed, Obama has embraced many of the Massachusetts reforms in Obamacare:

10:16 PM: Romney’s tax deduction cap grows overnight

Romney suggested capping the amount of tax deductions that an individual can use at “$25,000” or “$50,000,” saying “pick a number.” Yesterday, he suggested $17,000, a level at which his tax plan still doesn’t add up.

10:21 PM: Romney wants to stop hiring teachers

Romney says he wants “good teachers” and touts Massachusetts’ stellar schools. But Romney has said he wants to slash public school teacher jobs, as budget cuts on the state and local level have forced schools to shed massive amounts of teachers. His surrogate, former governor John Sununu (R-NH) later confirmed that Romney wants “fewer teachers.”

10:22 PM: Who’s to thank for Massachusetts’ educational rankings?

Romney may brag about the ranking of Massachusetts’ schools under his leadership, but many of his policies were guided by the Democratic legislature he worked with.

10:23 PM: Ryan would cut Pell Grants

On the topic of education, it’s important to keep Romney’s running mate in mind. VP pick Paul Ryan’s budget limits nondefense discretionary appropriations (which includes funding for Pell Grants) to $474 billion next year, $38 billion below the CBO’s baseline. If Ryan’s cuts are apportioned equally and across the board, it would cut discretionary funding for the Pell Grant program by more than $15 billion total, or 42 percent, next year alone. This would eliminate Pell Grants for 1 million students and reduce remaining grants by more than $1,500, on average, for each Pell Grant recipient:

10:24 PM: Obama brings up Romney’s ‘borrow money from your parents’ quote

In case you missed it over the summer, here’s the video of Romney telling students to borrow tens of thousands of dollars from their parents to start a business:

10:27 PM: Romney segues from student loans to clean energy criticism

Romney’s awkwardly segues from students not being able to afford to borrow money from their parents to clean energy spending. The clean energy economy grew 8.3 percent from 2003 to 2010, partially thanks to government incentives, nearly double what the entire economy grew in those years.

10:28 PM: Romney proposed consolidating the Department of Education

When asked if government has a role in improving public education, Mitt Romney told the audience that the federal government can play a positive role. But earlier this year, in closed-door meetings with donors, Romney said that he would “either consolidate with another agency, or perhaps make it a heck of a lot smaller.”

10:33 PM: So what will Romney do on health care?

During his closing argument, Romney promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but later said that he would put into place “the kind of principles we put in place in my home state.” So he does support Obamacare-type reforms for the nation?

10:40 PM: GOP won’t tell voters how they’ll pay for Romney’s massive tax cuts

ThinkProgress spoke with freshman Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO) at the debate about specific deductions that Congress might take up to pay for Mitt Romney’s massive tax breaks for the wealthy. Tipton cautioned that House Republicans would continue to be “cautious about specifics” because debating individual loopholes or deductions would create “uncertainty” in the marketplace. “Our specifics will be general in nature,” Tipton said. President Obama chastised this approach during the debate, mocking Romney for supposedly having a secret swath of deductions that would be popular to end.

10:57 PM: Most Tweeted political debate

11:06 PM: ThinkProgess is participating in a Google Hangout

We’re hanging out with Reason, Roll Call & the Christian Science Monitor talking about the debate. Check it out: