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Grant Gallicho is an associate editor of Commonweal. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Romney is off to an excellent start!

Abp. Lori responded to a recent NCRegister interview question on "the status of the U.S. bishops campaign to overturn the federal contraception mandate". He replied, in part, "On the public-advocacy front: An effort has been made to see that a question about the HHS mandate is asked during the presidential debate." Watch to see if it may "cut through the public-relations fog created since the start of the year" which Lori has noticed. He didn't identify who has been creating the fog. http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/archbishop-lori-discusses-president...

They are exactly the same height.

Anniversary advantage.

"Economic patriotism." Pretty good.

We'll help you with your home by building small businesses! Wait, what?

Romney's doing great, but the tax cut answer doesn't make sense, at least not yet.

In addition to lakes and trees, Mitt Romney likes coal.

Obama should look at Romney.

What about the cost to our environment if Romney's plan goes through?

Wow, Romney just compared Obama and Biden to his intransigent children?

Zinger!

Does Romney want to talk about what other people pay in taxes?

Romney the coal meister :(

Do you think the candidates practice the bully-the-moderator-into-letting-you-speak-out-of-turn gambit? I bet they do.

And countdown to the 10 to 1 spending cuts to revenue increases quote from the Republican primaries begins now...

Cutting Sesame Street! That's not a winning example.

Oh dear. It's always bad when they trot out the "I have a simple rule of thumb" plan. On the one hand, medical care, but on the other hand, China! I'd really rather government leaders stick to the more complicated decision-making process, thanks.

So, we know Mitt likes lakes, trees, coal, Big Bird, and Jim Lehrer.

And there we have it! Right on cue. "No" on 10 to 1 budget question.

Twitter feed blowing up with Obama supporters freaking out about his alleged lethargy. I think he looks steady, and Mitt looks overcaffeinated.

Not spinning here: Doesn't Romney seem much more confident in his presentation and demeanor than Obama does?

Obama's not having a good night. But Romney's got some unforced errors, for sure. He just talked about how much experience he has with shipping jobs overseas.

"I had a friend who said you don't just pick the winners and losers, you pick the losers!" Oh, come now, have the courage to stand behind your own zinger, Governor.

"So, we know Mitt likes lakes, trees, coal, Big Bird, and Jim Lehrer"http://tinyurl.com/8ejo2q8

Romney ... Medicaid: "your poor"He ignores, of course, elderly in nursing homes, disabled people, children. So much easier to just deem them all "the poor"Grrrr

Also, had a friend. WHAT HAPPENED TO THAT FRIEND?

"If you're 60 or older, you can stop listening." But then who will moderate?!

Classic sports game: Obama is ahead and trying to play it safe to protect a lead, Romney is behind and is taking risks. Advantage Mittens.

Romney sure seems to be assuming that senior citizens have money and wherewithal to shop for insurance plans. My grandparents would not have been good at that. Maybe some are.

Jim Lehrer is running a distant third in this debate.

Is Romney going to promote breaking up the big banks? That would certainly lead the news tomorrow.

Romney clearly bargaining that ignoring/talking over Lehrer is worth the risk of looking petulant/arrogant. Maybe he figures conservatives will cheer to see him refuse to respect the authority of a PBS personality?

"Cutting Sesame Street! Thats not a winning example."I'm a big fan of the show, but ... we're watching it on CNN, where they focus group insta-feedback running at the bottom of the screen, and when he said he'd make Big Bird go away, the graphs spiked off the charts.

Romney is hilarious now. He's just saying stuff. And hey, Obamacare is awful and Romneycare is the way to go! Huh? Meh, it'll play better than Professor Obama's lecture I imagine.

About that "small business survey" on the AffordableCareAct http://2012.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/07/romney-obamacare-chamber-comme...

Wow. Embracing Romneycare is kind of amazing. He's trying to make a contrast on the political gaming stuff -- which is odd in that the GOP was dead set against Obamacare but Dems supported Romney's plan. Main thing is he is embracing the mandate and taxpayer-funded abortion coverage, not to mention socialized medicine.

Romney stepped in it by referring to the "Republican plan." Obamacare is the Republican plan.

I'm totally confused by the all-of-a-sudden embrace of Romneycare. Did he decide that on the spot?

This is false. Preexisting conditions are not covered in Romney's alleged plan.

Romney seems like he's telling people what they want to hear now on health care, and not what he actually has proposed.

"So, we know Mitt likes lakes, trees, coal, Big Bird, and Jim Lehrer."But he's only going to pay for coal.

Here it is. Fear its length: http://www.mittromney.com/issues/health-care

Also, I just don't get the patent contradiction -- the Massachusetts plan was great but we shouldn't have it because it's terrible. I don't get it. But Obama isn't stuffing these layups back in his face.

No, see, the MA plan was a state plan. And Obamacare is a federal plan. Totally different. See?

Give Jim Lehrer a voucher. Romney is guilty of elder abuse.

How do you broaden the base without an individual mandate.

"Make up a number?" for tax deduction limit? 25,000 or 50,000? Huge difference!

Obama trying to make the connection between individual freedom and the common good, but not his best performance here. Lots of great arguments that aren't being made tonight.

Gotta give it to Romney: he has stuck to his talking points very closely. In that answer about the federal government, he rehashed some of his opening remarks and statistics.

Romney's non-stop Massachusetts bear hug is interesting. Appealing to the independents? His base is going to hate that association. But they hate Obama more?

I miss Ronald Reagan.

How long do you think it took the Romney team to craft that "You're entitled to your own airplane and to your own house, but not your own facts" zinger? The original is better, sure, but this one also reminds people that the president is a rich guy too! (Although the president himself says that pretty often.)

Is Romney smirking, or do I imagine it after that last remark? Grrrr indeed.

Welcome to Jim Lehrer's Last Debate.

He has a plane because he's the current pres, not because he's rich.

The difference in affect is remarkable. I'm disappointed that with all that Obama has going for him he doesn't come across with the confidence Romney is projecting. Romney looks like a happy guy. Obama seems tired. I think many people watching the debate absorb the affect even more than the content of what is being said.

Romney looks nuts ;)

What Rita said. Bin Laden! Team Obama's focus seems to be to point out that Romney has no facts or plan. But that doesn't matter on TV.

Also debates don't matter that much.

I've been in and out (the baby keeps waking up; teething is hell), but I'm with Grant - Obama seems steady to me, Romney seems edgy. But I can't separate the affect from what they're saying - Romney is flailing ideologically, so he comes off as unsteady to me.

Romney's approach is smart. He is pitching to people who don't really know how he's been running his campaign for the past, what? twelve years.Obama's closing remarks were quite weak.

After tonight's performance, there may not be a 21st anniversary.

Well, I think Obama got beat tonight, if I imagine myself as the hypothetical swing voter. Romney lied a lot, especially about his tax plan. He seemed actually to disavow his own plan. I'm not sure what happened at that point. He also played alpha dog in a way that a lot of people probably find unappealing. But Obama was not persuasive, in my opinion. Closing statements were decent, especially the one before the official closing statement, but probably too little, too late, for this night. What he did well was keep his cool when Romney was very aggressive. That's something Obama does have going for him -- he doesn't get flustered. But Romney had a very good night in his flow and comportment.

He also lied about Sec. Def. Gates's comments on the military budget. But Romney doesn't care. He is going for casual voters. He may have gotten some. If, and it's a big if, they made it through the tall weeds of this debate.

President Obama maintained his likeability but otherwise seemed tired. He was much sharper in the debates in 2008, though of course that was partly due to the contrast with McCain. Being president for nearly four years has probably had the predictable effect of wearing him down. He probably didn't hurt himself but Romney helped himself greatly.

I agree. Romney 8.0 is much more appealing.

Obama went high-minded, high concept, Romney went for a litany of charges. Two different brands. Depends what people want I think -- a steady hand through troubled times, or things are so bad that they want to try something else, even a caffeinated Mormon.

Romney won on the pathos appeals, interestingly ("can you help us"). He seemed energetic, civil and well-prepared. Obam gave history lessons and a lot of context that made him seem rambling. But, then, he sees how complex these issues are and he's been dealing for four years with morons and Congress, but (with apologies to Mark Twain), I repeat myself.

So lying your ass off is presidential?

"After tonights performance, there may not be a 21st anniversary."Why would you say something like that?

Helen--I think tonight was the president's 20th wedding anniversary.

Helen, see, Mark is making one of his famous "funnies," implying that the prez was SO BAD that Michelle will divorce him! OMG, ROFL! Oh, dear, what a knee slapper.

This debate was a Maureen Dowd column in action. She barely has to touch the keyboard to write it.

Romney won.

"They are exactly the same height.'Grant --Historically the odds are that the taller candidate will win. Hmmm.

My sense is that Mitt Romney got the better of the debate but that most of the commentators I saw on various stations afterward were making too much of that. We often do that in the news media: make the news of the moment more momentous than it is. It is an occupational hazard.Romney was energetic and Obama seemed tired. That counts for a lot a televised debate. Romney argued well against the massive Democratic advertising campaign to convince voters to fill the gaps in his tax plan in the worst possible light. But Obama still made a good case that Romney has something to hide about his plans. Also, Romney was so obviously re-positioning himself in a variety of ways that it may further confuse voters about who he is. And the video about the 47 percent was sort of the elephant in the room; I don't think Obama needed to mention it, contrary to what many of the Democratic pundits are saying.

I couldn't understand it all, but I was very encouraged by the courtesy of both candidates. Bully for them. We need more discussions like that.

The Washington Post provides a transcript of the debate here:http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/decision2012/2012-presidential-de...

They both floundered a lot. Romney kept more on message, had his ducks in a row, sounded in control of his facts; Obama trusted more to generalities, didn't seem focused. Obama was soft and cool; Romney was hard and hot. People will see what they wanted to see.It's a shame the debate format is so chopped up and compressed. The issues are too complex and too important to be jammed into such ridiculously small bits of time. Very little gets articulated, taught, learned. Bits of information survive, but only if they're drastically oversimplified. That's a disservice both to candidates and to voters.

Mitt Romney was consistently brash, as challengers often are. No doubt his brashness will appeal to Republican voters. But is his kind of brashness what still-undecided voters are looking for?President Obama was pusillanimous, to say the least. He looked like he was staying up well past his usual bed time, and was kind of annoyed about having to be there, when he would have preferred to be in bed going to sleep. In short, he looked tired and sleepy. It's hard for me to imagine how such a sleepy performance could appeal to Democratic voters or to still-undecided voters.

MITT TO BIG BIRD: YOU'RE FIRED!That is the headline I expected to see, with a news story about how Romney's plans for "creating new jobs" relied on firing people and denying services that all Americans appreciate. Should the government play a role in helping irresponsible people, like the children who have learned from Sesame Street? Maybe there is an argument there, but I sure would hate to see children's TV left to the marketplace.

I think Grant is too quick to dismiss the debate as a game "modifier" if not changer. I'll bet on two points for Romney uptick in Ohio and three in Virginaia and N Carolina.And now Joe...! Looking forward to some fire!

I feel that watching the debates might reduce my time in Purgatory.Obama looked mostly aloof and pulled his punches. Romney looked, as my dad used to say, as happy as if he were in his right mind. Romney seems to have exchanged his conservative mantle for his middle-of-the-road coat. Interesting that when vouchers/Medicare issue came up, he wouldn't say he supported the Ryan plan, but that he had "always" supported some other, earlier plan dreamed up by a Democrat and Republican. Slight distancing from Ryan?

Just a note from North of the border. I was driving and listened to the debate via Sirius radio. Right from the start Romney presented as clear, concise and in command whereas Obama seemed hesitant and stumbled in speaking his comments. Although the CNN commentators said Romney provided details, I thought that a crock. Generalities are not details. Obama asked for them on the 5 trillion tax cut and never got anything. The listeners and viewers were cheated in my humble opinion. David P any word on the points gained in Ohio or other states. I'm not likely to find them up here.

"My MAIN point, though, is not about rates and revenues in theory. Its about the set of propositions about which Romney said ALL of them will be the case:- lower tax rates by 20% across the board- maintain current defense spending- protect social security- maintain current spending on Medicare- maintain current federal spending on education (about 15% of non-defense discretionary spending, I think)This is not possible."Dr. Peppard--Your conclusion that "This is not possible" is your opinion. I happen to disagree with it (hopefully that does not make me a liar in your mind), but you are entitled to that opinion. However, it is not a fact. You have a different opinion than Romney on whether he can be successful. Fine, but my main point is that, at a time when civil political discourse seems to be at a premium, it was most unfortunate of you to claim, in a public form, that Romney told big lies. I am glad that your last post did not repeat thatMoreover, I think it's important to realize that even if one does say something that is factually incorrect (for example, I think you have in claiming Romney lied), that does not mean that person has lied. As a theology professor, I'm sure you're well aware of that important distinction.Best of luck in espousing the conservative view among your liberal colleagues, I'm sure that must be very challenging. I hope this exchange does not discourage you!**Note, apologies for cross-posting, it seems the original thread is no longer open to comments, but I thought it was important to clarify what I am saying, and what I am not saying, and this thread is closest to the topic.

Clearly, Romney won hands down. Now the VP candidates are up (wednesday) - should be good.

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