ThinkProgress Liveblogs The Second Presidential Debate

Welcome to ThinkProgress’ live coverage of the second presidential debate, hosted by Hofstra University, in Hempstead, New York.

We’ll fact-check both candidates’ claims in real time and offer a wide range of multimedia content. Tonight’s debate is moderated by Candy Crowley, CNN’s Chief Political Correspondent.

08:45 PM: Debate eats

President Obama is eating “dinner with first lady Michelle Obama at his hotel before the debate. They are having steak and potatoes.” Former Bush Press Secretary Dana Perino thinks that their meal is designed to pander to “the blue-collar worker.”

08:46 PM: Debate audience is very well vetted

CNN apparently “checked criminal records, voter registration, political donations, and more of all who will ask questions tonight.”

08:47 PM: Romney really practiced

CNN is reporting that Romney, a Mormon “who doesn’t drink, practiced getting on bar stools.”

08:48 PM: Town hall 101

The 82 town hall participants are all undecided voters selected by Gallup. They will ask about 13 questions, with the first going to Romney, who won a coin toss. Both candidates wil have two minutes to respond, at which point Crowley can follow up. “Only Crowley will know the questions in advance. The town hall participants have already submitted their questions to her. With a small team of helpers, she’s chosen the people who will get to speak and the order in which they will do so.” There will be no closing statements.

08:49 PM: Romney before the debate

08:50 PM: First woman moderator in 20 years

Crowley is the first female debate moderator in over 20 years. The only other female moderator since the Commission on Presidential Debates began appointing people to the position is named Carole Simpson. And while she was happy to see a second female moderator, she was unimpressed with the Commission’s decision to pick Crowley for the town hall debate, which “does not give a woman a chance to ask the questions.”

08:51 PM: Missing from the debates so far

Two debates in, the candidates have yet to field any questions on issues like immigration, LGBT rights, climate change, and many women’s issues. The next debate will focus on foreign policy, so tonight may be the last chance.

09:03 PM: ‘Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose’

The creator of Friday Night Lights has asked Romney to stop using the show’s popular slogan. Romney is ignoring his request:

09:06 PM: Ryan plan would cut Pell Grants for 1 million students

The first question is about how to make it easier for kids to go to college. Mitt Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, proposed a budget that cuts 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, eliminating Pell Grants for 1 million students and reducing what’s left by more than an average of $1,500 for each Pell Grant recipient:

09:07 PM: Romney’s other plan for reducing student debt

Romney usually sidesteps questions on student debt, suggesting students should “get as much education as they can afford,” “borrow money if you have to from your parents,” or join the military.

09:08 PM: Romney would put banks between students and their federal loans

Romney noted that today’s graduates are leaving college with ever-growing debt. However, he has pledged to repeal a key student loan reform that took federal money away from banks and used it to expand student aid. Repealing that reform would put Wall Street banks back between students and their loans.

09:10 PM: Jobs are up since Obama took office

Romney is wrong: Jobs are up, not down, since Obama took office. Just recently, job creation reached a net positive An estimated3 million jobs have been created by the stimulus alone:

09:10 PM: The 12 million jobs lie

The Washington Post’s in-house fact checker tore Romney’s claim that he will create 12 million jobs to shreds. The Post wrote that the “‘new math’” in Romney’s plan “doesn’t add up.” In awarding the claim four Pinocchios — the most untrue possible rating, the Post expressed incredulity at the fact Romney would personally stand behind such a flawed, baseless claim. Our colleagues at the Center for American Progress Action Fund also took a look at Romney’s plan and concluded that there are basically three possible outcomes for the economy if it were to be implemented:

09:11 PM: ‘Let Detroit go bankrupt’

Romney now trying to attack Obama on the auto industry. That’s a hard pill for voters to swallow since, in a 2008 op-ed titled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,” Romney predicted that the auto bailout “virtually guaranteed” the industry’s demise. GM, Ford, and Chrysler are all now seeing increases in sales of 10, 13, and 14 percent, respectively. By all accounts, the auto bailout was a success.

09:13 PM: Romney was asked how he’d help the unemployed

He offered few specifics today, choosing to talk about his proposal to “let Detroit go bankrupt.” But, in a primary debate in August, he said he would oppose extending unemployment benefits, saying “we have to find ways to reduce our spending on a lot of the anti-poverty programs and unemployment programs.”

09:13 PM: Who is responsible for high gas prices?

Gas prices are certainly high, but oil is a global commodity, and the president has virtually no control over them. And according to the Congressional Budget Office, Romney’s proposal to increase domestic oil production would not have much impact on volatility.

09:15 PM: Obama’s energy record

Oil imports are the lowest since 1996. In 2012, just 41 percent of U.S. oil was imported, compared to 57 percent in 2008.

09:16 PM: Chu said he’s doing everything he can to lower gas prices

Energy secretary Steven Chu was just called out for saying that lowering gas prices isn’t the responsibility of the government. But here’s a quote from Chu, just a few months ago:

“Since I walked in the door as secretary of Energy I’ve been doing everything in my powers to do what we can to … reduce those prices,” Chu

09:17 PM: Romney wants to keep century-old tax breaks for big oil

Romney suggests he supports renewables, but while Romney wants to end to tax breaks for wind power, he plans to maintain century-old $4 billion tax breaks for the oil and gas industries, on top of $2.3 additional tax breaks for the five big oil companies.


Wind tax credits and other clean energy investments have helped the clean energy economy grow 8.3 percent from 2003 to 2010, nearly double what the entire economy grew in those years. Ending tax breaks for newer wind industry projects threatens as many as 37,000 jobs.

09:19 PM: Romney’s coal ad featured miners forced to be there

Romney accused Obama of “ruining the coal industry” in an ad featuring Romney flanked by solemn-looking miners. But those miners were actually forced to attend the rally or lose their jobs at Murray Energy Corporation, opening the ad to an FEC complaint that Romney accepted an illegal campaign contribution.

09:21 PM: Romney cites debunked oil and coal claims

It’s not true that oil production is down on public lands. Compared to the last three years of President Bush, there have been 241 million more barrels of oil produced from public lands in the first three years of President Obama. Romney also mentions the Bakken range in his answer. His super PAC donor and top energy adviser Harold Hamm is the largest player in the North Dakota Bakken fields — and he stands to profit from Romney’s policies.

09:22 PM: Romney used to say that coal kills people

Romney touted coal tonight, but here’s the clip in 2003 of Romney saying “I will not create jobs or hold jobs that kill people”:

09:24 PM: Here’s what’s happening on public lands

Energy production on public lands is doing well, and many of the leases to oil drillers aren’t being actively used by companies. Two-thirds of “acreage leased by [oil] industry lies idle” on public lands, according to the Department of the Interior. The oil and gas industry is sitting on 7,000 approved permits to drill, where it hasn’t begun exploring or developing. Compared to the last three years of President Bush, there have been 241 million more barrels of oil produced from public lands in the first three years of Obama.

09:25 PM: Romney: ‘I don’t have a policy stopping wind jobs in Iowa’

Romney is actually against a one-year renewal of the wind production tax credit. The wind production tax credit has led to $14 billion of investment in 2011 and tens of thousands of American jobs.The expiration of the tax credit could cost 37,000 jobs and in the last month alone, more than 1,534 manufacturing workers have lost their jobs in Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Kansas, North Dakota, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

09:27 PM: Romney says health costs have increased under Obama

Health 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. Here is some context to Romney’s claim:

09:28 PM: Romney says the rich won’t pay less under his 20 percent tax cut

But at a primary debate, he said the exact opposite. In February, he claimed he was “going to cut taxes on everyone across the country by 20 percent, including the top 1 percent.”

Watch the video:

09:30 PM: Romney claims Obama’s spending will raise taxes on the middle class

Romney’s claim that Obama’s spending policies will necessitate tax increases on the middle class relies on more bad math. The study he cites to back up that claim actually shows that the President’s budget reduces the debt and the amount of taxes Americans need to pay to service it.

09:31 PM: Romney’s $4,000 middle class tax claim has been thoroughly debunked

Romney repeatedly cites a bogus study done by the American Enterprise Institute to claim that Obama will raise taxes on the middle class by $4,000. However, even the conservative group’s study only says the budget could potentially result in a higher tax burden over 10 years, the “middle ground” between two other extreme budget scenarios in which the Bush tax cuts are either allowed to expire or are extended.

09:37 PM: Right-wing commentators deny basic supply and demand on gas prices

09:39 PM: The evolution of Romney’s tax plan

As Obama pointed out, Romney and his campaign have refused to divulge which loopholes and deductions would be eliminated in order to pay for their $5 trillion in planned tax cuts. Here is a timeline how Romney’s tax plan has evolved over the course of his campaign, and how he and his advisers have refused to flesh out the details.

09:40 PM: Obama is asked how he will solve the pay gap between men and women

The first bill Obama signed was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which overruled a Supreme Court decision cutting back women’s right to equal pay for equal work. Romney named four of the justices who voted to roll back equal pay in that Supreme Court decision as his models for any of his appointments to the federal bench.

09:41 PM: Romney has dodged questions on pay equity

On average, women get paid 77 cents on every dollar men earn, but Romney has been uncomfortably silent on the issue. He also has refused to say whether he’d support the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill that would allow women to sue for equal pay.

Here’s the awkward audio of Romney advisers trying to avoid answering Romney’s position on the Ledbetter law:

09:50 PM: Romney: ‘every woman deserves access to contraception’

But back in March, Romney expressed strong support for the so-called Blunt amendment, which that would allow employers to deny contraception coverage to women:

Of course I support the Blunt amendment. I thought he was talking about some state law that prevented people from getting contraception. […]

Of course Roy Blunt who is my liaison to the Senate is someone I support and of course I support that amendment. I clearly want to have religious exemption from Obamacare…. I really think all Americans should be allowed to get around this religious exemption.

Romney also wants to defund Planned Parenthood, where 76 percent of the patients seek low-cost birth control options. Defunding the organization would make it much harder for those women to get contraceptives.

09:50 PM: Obama: Romney is more extreme than George W. Bush

“There are some things where Governor Romney is different from George Bush. George Bush didn’t propose turnnig Medicare into a voucher. George Bush embraced comprehensive immigration reform, he didn’t call for self-deportation. George Bush never suggested we eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood,” Obama said.

Watch it:

09:51 PM: Obama already has gone after China more than Bush

Obama has imposed a 35 percent tariff on Chinese tire makers to prevent the loss of factory jobs in states like Ohio, filed seven complaints against China with the World Trade Organization, and just last week stopped a Chinese company from buying a wind farm near a military base in Oregon.

09:52 PM: Romney and Bush

Romney was asked how he differs from George W. Bush. He used the same argument to justify his tax plan that Bush used, an RNC official called Romney’s policies “Bush, just updated,” and a top House Republican has said that Romney’s tax plan follows the Bush “recipe.”

09:54 PM: Romney’s foreign policy is George W. Bush part II

When asked how he would be different from President Bush, Romney curiously didn’t mention “foreign policy.” That’s because Romney will conduct international affairs much like President Bush did. More than two-thirds of Romney’s foreign policy advisers are veterans of the Bush administration. Many of his advisers pushed for war in Iraq in 2002–3 and are in favor of war with Iran today.

09:57 PM: Obama has not doubled the deficit

He just hasn’t.

09:59 PM: We’re better off than we were four years ago

And here are the charts to prove it.

10:01 PM: Romney says he will not put ‘magnets’ in place that attract undocumented immmigrants

During the GOP primary, Mitt Romney supported harmful anti-immigration laws to force undocumented immigrants to self deport. Here’s what he said in a January Republican debate:

Well, the answer is self-deportation, which is people decide they can do better by going home because they can’t find work here because they don’t have legal documentation to allow them to work here. And so we’re not going to round people up.

Watch it:

10:02 PM: Pointed questions can’t come from undecided voters, per the right wing

10:07 PM: Romney does think the Arizona is a model

According to Russell Pearce, the Arizona law’s architect, Romney’s “immigration policy is identical to mine.”

10:08 PM: Obama is protecting DREAMers from deportation thanks to deferred action

Romney repeatedly refused to say whether he’d overturn President Obama’s immigration directive providing relief to undocumented young people — four times in a row. But a few weeks ago, he finally admitted that he would end the directive, though he would not take away visas from people who had already received them.

10:11 PM: The State Department did not deny security to the Benghazi diplomats

The security requests in question were for the embassy in Tripoli — 400 miles away.

10:15 PM: Operation Fast and Furious started under President Bush

Romney attributed the botched gun sting dubbed “Fast and Furious” to President Obama, but the program was initiated under President George W. Bush in 2006. While the operation continued under the Obama Department of Justice, an inspector general’s report showed that Attorney General Eric Holder had no knowledge of the program until after it became public.

10:16 PM: Obama hits Romney for suggesting he is ‘covering up’ the Libya incident

“[It] is offensive. That’s not what we do. That’s not what I do as president. That not what I do as Commander in Chief,” Obama said.

10:20 PM: Obama did call the Libya incident an act of ‘terror’

Romney was just fact checked in real time, Obama called Lybia attack “an act of terror” on Sept 12. Watch it:

10:22 PM: Romney claims getting married will prevent gun violence

While answering a question about gun control, Romney started discussing the importance of marriage and two-parent households.

10:28 PM: Right-wingers hammer Candy Crowley for telling the truth on Libya

10:29 PM: The US effective corporate tax rate is the lowest in the developed world

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

10:30 PM: Romney claims Obamacare hurts small businesses

In fact, studies show that the health care reform does exactly the opposite. Obamacare can help reduce costs for small business owners.

10:31 PM: Romney’s tax plan would make it easier to outsource jobs

The corporate tax plan Romney proposed would shift America to a territorial tax system, which would make it easier for multinational corporations to outsource jobs and store their profits offshore. According to one study, Romney’s plan would result in the creation of 800,000 overseas jobs.

10:32 PM: China’s currency is actually catching up to the dollar

Romney has promised to label China as a currency manipulator “on Day One.” While China’s currency is nowhere near where it should be, it has recently hit an all-time high against the US dollar.

10:32 PM: Romney exported jobs

Call it “offshoring” or “outsourcing,” there’s no denying Bain Capital invested in “a series of firms that specialized in relocating jobs done by American workers to new facilities in low-wage countries like China and India” under his leadership.

10:33 PM: Romney flip-flopped on pressuring China on trade

He opposed it before he starting running for President, saying in 2009: “long story short, the wrong answer for America’s workers and for the wealth of every citizen of this nation is to try and put up barriers to stop competition, either domestic competition or competition from abroad.”

10:37 PM: Where government investment has created jobs

Clean energy is a great example. Spurred by federal investment in clean energy projects, the clean energy sector is growing at a rate of 8.3 percent, nearly double the growth rate of the overall economy. And these jobs pay a higher median salary: 13 percent higher in green energy careers than the economy average. Median salaries for green jobs are $46,343, about $7,727 more than the median wages across the broader economy.

10:38 PM: Obama isn’t anti-business

Corporations are doing very well under Obama. “The Fortune 500 generated a total of $824.5 billion in earnings last year, up 16.4% over 2010. That beats the previous record of $785 billion, set in 2006 during a roaring economy.”

10:43 PM: Romney campaign’s instant response

Romney campaign chair and former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu (R-NH) in the spin room: “The president quite often is a liar.”

10:54 PM: Alex Castellanos on CNN: Women won’t be ‘turned on’ by debate

On CNN just now, conservative pundit Alex Castellanos said that women in America saw Romney and Obama as competing “jocks” in tonight’s debate, and that he doesn’t think women will be “turned on” by the performance they saw:

I think — I thought a lot of women in America saw a debate tonight where two high school jocks didn’t like each other very much and I’m not sure they are going to be turned on by this debate.

10:59 PM: Our post-debate Google Hangout

We’re talking about the debate with @reason @rollcall and @csmonitor: