Ladies and gentlemen, tonight at 9:00 p.m. debate night round two begins. The second presidential debate of the 2012 election season will see Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama face off in a much anticipated duel. Obama's task is reigniting that spark of "Hope" (and the passion of the people). Romney's task is proving to America that debate number one wasn't just a stroke of dumb luck.
The time around, the debate will be at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. Instead of the traditional debate format, tonight will follow a town hall set-up which involves both men fielding questions from audience members in order to speak directly to the American people.
The audience members (and question askers) at tonight's debate have been pre-screened and selected by the Gallup organization. The 80-84 audience members are all "undecided" voters who, in theory, will be highly influenced by these debates in their decision making processes. It is expected that 12-16 people will ask questions.
The debate will be moderated by CNN correspondant Candy Crowley. Crowley is the first female debate moderator in two decades.
Here are the details for tonight:
Topic: Town hall format on foreign and domestic policy
The second presidential debate will take the form of a town meeting, in which citizens will ask questions of the candidates on foreign and domestic issues. Candidates each will have 2 minutes to respond, and an additional minute for the moderator to facilitate a discussion. The town meeting participants will be undecided voters selected by the Gallup Organization.
Live Stream the Debate Here:
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10:39 pm: The evening is over! Thank you all for tuning in. Who won? What do you think? Good night everybody.
10:38 pm: There it is. Obama brings up the 47% marks. About time.
10:37 pm: Obama's reply: I do not believe that government creates jobs. The free enterprise system is an engine for American growth.
He joins Romney in his charge toward the middle.
10:35 pm: Romney's reply: "I care about 100% of the American people."
10:34 pm: Final question: "What is the biggest mis-perception people have about you?"
10:33 pm: So far, not one mention of the 47%. Why is Obama holding back on this one?
10:31 pm: Over time and we still have one more question.
10:29 pm: Obama and Romney getting in each others faces:
These are the hot button issues according to Twitter tonight:
10:23 pm: Yes indeed.
10:21 pm: Obama making this face a lot tonight:
10:21 pm: Romney saying that we should make sure that we tell our kids to get married before they have kids.
10:20 pm: Romney wants to "make enormous efforts to enforce the gun laws we have."
10:19 pm: Obama tying gun control to education. "What I want is a comprehensive strategy ... part of it seeing if we can get automatic weapons ... out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill." The other part is going to the root of the problem.
10:17 pm: Next question: gun control.
10:16 pm: Candy Crowley just lay the smack down on Romney.
10:15 pm: Obama just called Romney's comments "offensive."
10:13 pm: Romney hits Obama for going to political fund raisers after the attack in Libya. The president attended a fundraiser in Las Vegas the following day.
10:12 pm: A little light reading. Check out Romney's timeline reply to the attacks in Libya here.
10:10 pm: Obama: "When it comes to national security, I mean what I say." His list of accomplishments here is strong.
10:09 pm: Tweeted during the most recent Obama vs. Romney town hall kerfuffle.
10:05 pm: Romney trying to explain "self deportation."
10:02 pm: Also it took both of these men like a thousand ties to get the name "Lorraine" right.
10:01 pm: Obama speaking on immigration:
"We need to fix a broken immigration system."
"First thing we did was streamline the legal immigration system."
"We put more border patrol on than in any time in history."
9:58 pm: Next question: What to do with immigration policy.
9:57 pm: Romney on his binders full of women:
9:55 pm: Romney: "The Middle class is getting crushed under the policies of a president who does not understand how to get the economy working again." I must say, this is Romney's most effective moment. Very business pitch-y. Just his style.
9:54 pm: Romney says if you re-elect Obama you'll get a "repeat of the last four years."
9:54 pm: Obama is doing a better job defending his record this time.
9:49 pm: Obama bringing up the differences between Romney and Bush.
"They're not on economic policy."
9:45 pm: Next question: To Romney, "how do you differentiate yourself from George W. Bush?"
9:44 pm: Tomorrow's meme? Yup.
9:43 pm: Obama brings up health care. Boom.
"Insurance companies need to provide contraceptive coverage ... this is not just a health issue, it's an economic issue for women."
9:39 pm: Romney on pay equity for women:
His team brought him "binders full of women" to choose from for high-powered jobs. I mean, I can't.
9:37 pm: Next question about how to make pay in the workplace equal for men and women. Women around the country are all going like this:
9:34 pm: Romney's plan "doesn't add up."
9:32 pm: Obama saying Romney, "can't tell ya" how he's going to close loop holes.
"We haven't heard any specifics from the Governor ... "
9:28 pm: Obama asking for tax increase on the wealthy. Wants to go to Bill Clinton tax rates for those who make above $250,000.
President Obama: "Mitt Romney has held the 98% hostage because they want tax breaks for the top 2%."
9:27 pm: Obama speaking to how he has cut taxes for the middle class, "I want to continue those tax cuts for middle class families and small businesses."
9:27 pm: Oh please.
9:23 pm: Speaking to taxes. Romney, "I want middle income tax payers to pay lower taxes."
9:21 pm: Why was gas so low when Obama took office? Because the economy was on the brink of collapse?
9:19 pm: They're in a skirmish.
Obama: "Governor, what you're saying is just not true."
9:12 pm: Boom.
9:11 pm: Next question:
Is it the job of the energy department to lower gas prices?
Romney says: Oil please.
"I believe very much in our renewable capabilities."
"What we don't need is having the president keeping us from taking advantage of oil, coal, and gas."
Obama says: Advocating for natural gas in an environmentally sound way.
Says Romney has the oil and gas part but not the clean energy part.
9:10 pm: "Governor Romney doesn't have a five point plan, he has a one point plan." To favor people at the top.
9:09 pm: Fightin' words from Romney.
9:08 pm: Crowley asks follow up question about what unemployed people should do now.
9:07 pm: Obama and Romeny did a tie color swap. Obama in red tie and Romney in blue tie. This was how it looked last time:
9:06 pm: Obama answering the same question.
"I want to build manufacturing jobs in this country again."
"Change our tax code, giving incentives to countries investing here in the United States."
9:04 pm: Romney says he's going to keep the Pell Grant program growing. "I want you to be able to get a job." (I'm sure that 20-year-old kid does too).
This is the least substantive answer ever.
9:03 pm: First time voter asking the first question. He is 20 years old.
Question: Will he be able to support himself after he graduates from college?
9:02 pm: Candy Crowley has taken the stage. The night has begun!
8:59 pm: One minute to go and the base is fired up:
8:56 pm: 4 minute countdown.
8:48 pm: What does the Republican nominee do 12 minutes before taking the stage?
8:38 pm: Romney's Secret Practice Sessions:
According to the New York Times Romney began practicing for the town hall style debate many months ago. "Aides to Mr. Romney began organizing frequent, off-the-record discussions with voters six months ago, with a specific goal in mind: making the candidate comfortable talking to ordinary people about their troubles and supplying him with anecdotes to tell during crucial moments of the campaign."
8:36 pm: Agree!
8:31 pm: Romney wins the coin toss, people.
8:28 pm: How every Democrat in America is feeling right now at this 32-minute count down.
8:20 pm: The Romneys hanging out backstage:
8:11 pm: When did Twitter spike at the VP debate?
8:08 pm: News from Hofstra:
8:05 pm: Debate Predictions from PolicyMic pundit Matt Rozsa:
"When all is said and done, the odds are that – barring major gaffes by Obama or Romney – viewers will either be split down the middle on who “won” tonight or will give Obama an edge not nearly on par with what Romney was able to accomplish. Politically speaking, this should help Obama halt the precipitous slide in the polls he has experienced in the aftermath of the first debate, but it remains to be seen whether it will help him make any kind of meaningful recovery. I suspect that it will tighten things up by eliminating Romney’s razor-thin lead, and maybe even give Obama a slight edge instead, but not much more."
8:03 pm: Less than an hour to go! Interesting tid-bit from the Twitterverse.
7:12 pm: Number of people in the audience tonight? 82. Intimate.
7:07 pm: Less than two hours to go. As you watch tonight. Keep this electoral map in mind. According to RealClearPolitics, this is how things are looking.
6:53 pm: Courtesy of the Obama campaign. "Ten Things You Should Know About Romney's Extreme Stance on Women's Rights."
6:39 pm: Obama campaign just posted this on Facebook. #fierce
6:35 pm: I will pay $100 to see a split screen like this tonight:
6:20 pm: Interesting to me that the Romney campaign still has the Friday Night Lights slogan ("Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can't Lose") as their Facebook background even after the show's creator asked Romney to cease using it as Romney's "politics and campaign are not clearly aligned with the themes we portrayed in our series."
6:11 pm: PolicyMic pundit Siv Cheruvu lays out the dynamics of the evening:
For Obama: Brookings and Washington Post Opinion Writer E.J Dionne explains, “As he tries to engineer a comeback in this week’s presidential debate, President Obama needs to recognize two things. First, when it comes to politics, Mitt Romney treats himself as a product, not a person. Second, Republicans cannot defend their proposals in terms that are acceptable to a majority of voters. You can imagine Romney someday saying: ‘Politicians are products, my friend.’”
Likewise, Obama must demand specifics from Romney’s tax plan but also must press him on foreign policy. Romney champions his business experience to bolster his qualifications to steward the economy, but on foreign policy Obama’s four years as commander and chief trumps anything in Romney’s past. This is a great opportunity for Obama to paint himself as the logical choice when it comes to foreign affairs and as the only candidate with a credible and specific economic plan.
For Romney: The formula is clear according to the Wall Street Journal stating that “Mr. Romney, meanwhile, has to balance taking a forceful tone with the president while ensuring the voters feel like he is connecting with them and directly responding to their questions, aides said.”
Romney is always attacked for being disconnected with the individual voter and this town hall is his opportunity to show the American people that he can effectively address individual concerns. Romney has the momentum going into Tuesday and must continue it. He cannot stand idly to Obama’s attacks if he is serious about winning in November. Romney needs to show his legitimacy as a foreign policy leader to distinguish himself from the president.
6:05 pm: Extremely ready for a little of this:
5:50 pm: Some fast facts about debate moderator Candy Crowley.
1) Crowley has worked at CNN since 1987.
5:33 pm: If you haven't checked out the Democratic National Committee's latest parody website give romneytaxplan.com a click. The new site makes it impossible to "get the details" on the Romney-Ryan tax plan. As the site says, "Romney believes in (half of) America."
5:30 pm: A look at the media room at Hofstra University. PolicyMic pundits Jesse Merkel, Mark Kogan, and Danielle Schlanger are on the scene live. Photo comes via Jesse Merkel.
5:16 pm: Paul Ryan's faux soup kitchen moment from earlier in the day. According to the charity's president, "The photo-op they did wasn't even accurate. He did nothing. He just came in here to get his picture taken at the dining hall."
5:12 pm: Pre-debate social media campaign attacks are fully underway, though I must say Team Obama is much speedier on the tweets. If you go back four tweets on the Obama feed it was sent 46 minutes ago, Team Romney's was sent yesterday. #youthvote
5:06 pm: After the first debate Romney made significant gains amongst female voters. As one New York Times op-ed writer wrote of the Romney-Ryan position on abortion, "they would move to take away a fundamental right that American women have had for nearly 40 years." Women (and men) should keep this in mind as they head to the polls.
4:32 pm: A very interesting episode of This Week analyzing the question, "Do presidential debates change elections?"
4:27 pm: Jay-Z has the president's back. Boom.
4:11 pm: Looking for that stamp of approval from Michelle tonight:
Most Democrats watched the first presidential debate incredulously, cringing at President Obama’s performance: What happened to the inspiring, impassioned man of four years ago? The president appeared tired, disinterested, and visionless. His opponent Mitt Romney — long considered the least charismatic of the two presidential candidates — was polished, confident, and dominant.
President Obama lost the first presidential debate because he focused on policy specifics, forgetting that the majority of debate viewers are more moved by style, grace, and charisma than an explanation of mathematics or economics. To win the second presidential debate against Mitt Romney, Obama must appeal to the average American viewer who will decide the winner of the debate, and the election, on emotional impression over policy specifics. The president must mesmerize with “wow” factor, and sway viewers who don’t care to be bogged down in the details.
Obama’s first debate performance failed in part because he tailored his message to a relatively informed audience. Some commentators suggested that perhaps he had spent too much time around his inner circle of advisers over the last four years who have already, “drank the Obama punch.” Maybe the fervent democratic crowds along the campaign trail left him out of touch with the average American’s perception of the president. Whatever the case, Obama prepped for the wrong audience.
The first presidential debate drew a record 70 million viewers, double the number who viewed the president’s acceptance speech, the previously most viewed event of the campaign. Of the 35 million additional viewers of the debate, many were essentially “tuning in” for the first time this campaign —part of those were deemed “low information” viewers whose primary interests lie outside of politics and public policy. Obama needed to reach these individuals who might not have heard of Romney’s disastrous first foreign tour, who may not know whether or not they are part of the 47%, and who probably couldn’t cite the specifics of the current tax code.
Romney already knew he needed to perform for this audience. In the infamous 47% video shot at a fundraiser earlier this year, Romney told the audience that his strategy for winning over undecided voters required looking good rather than sounding good, saying: “What I have to do is convince the 5 to 10% in the center that are independent, that are thoughtful, that look at voting one way or the other depending on in some cases emotion — whether they like the guy or not, what he looks like.”
Romney used this strategy in the first debate, and it worked. He looked confident, relaxed, and happy to be on stage. When Obama accused him of misleading viewers about his tax proposal by not providing policy specifics, Romney went with his gut, shooting back that he would “absolutely not” support a tax cut for the wealthy. Viewers believed him because he looked believable.
In the days following the first debate, news shows picked apart every detail of Obama’s mannerisms. He smiled infrequently, and when he did, he didn’t mean it. He relaxed one of his feet at the podium — clearly, he was uncomfortable. The man took way too many notes to be convincing.
In football, teams spend hours reviewing videos of their own and opposing teams’ games to build informed strategies. In the two weeks since the first presidential debate, Obama’s team should have scrupulously reviewed clip after clip and coached the president on how to regain his “wow” factor and identify his opponent’s stylistic vulnerabilities.
If Romney is right, the election will come down to the decisions of individuals who chose candidates based upon emotional impression. Obama cannot afford to lose another debate by misreading his audience and delivering a collegial talk on policy differences. He must simplify and generalize and captivate the audience's heart, just the way he did four years ago.
3:54 pm: Take a look at the Memorandum of Understanding that both parties signed prior to tonight's debate. Pages 6 through 9 detail the rules for tonight's event. Candy Crowley is not permitted to ask follow up questions or editorialize on audiences questions.
3:52 pm: My personal hope is that tonight's event does not look anything like this. Chin up Obama.