Who Won Presidential Debate: Obama vs Romney Analysis and Recap


Town Hall Debate Live Coverage Below

Tonight's town hall style debate promises to be a dramatically different affair than either the first presidential debate or the vice presidential debate. It's the unknowns that make this a critical opportunity to make or break the campaign, and could be the "game changer" the pundits talk about in this final stretch of the election cycle. Neither candidate can truly prepare for the questions the audience will throw at them when it won't always be possible to bring the message back to the campaign talking points.

While Obama will surely be facing tough questions on his record and his policy stances, Romney faces both the president and his own public perception as a rich, disconnected businessman in pursuit of financial solvency but at the expense of the shrinking middle class. Both candidates have a lot of work to do in this one chance for undecided voters to directly question the candidates on national television.

What to watch for tonight: how do the candidates relate to the undecided, mainstream voter? Will they actually answer questions, try to stick to the talking points, appeal to independents and party bases alike, or successfully do a little of each? How does Romney's firmer position on immigration reform stand to affect his chances with minority voters? Can Obama defend health care reform, including the individual mandate, in a time of economic distress? Why does Romney support significant increases in defense spending, despite the economic situation and no actual requests for such funding? And will Obama have more luck facing an undecided voter in the audience than a poised, well-spoken Romney?

PolicyMic will be covering the presidential debate live. For live updates, bookmark and refresh this page.

UPDATE 10:43: Heard on ABC News - "Obama drank his Honey Boo Boo juice." And on that note, I think Obama has sealed his victory.

UPDATE 10:36: 66% of voters on XBox live believe that Obama won this debate.

UPDATE 10:30: Obama talks about Education instead of gun control, though he gave a better answer to begin with. Romney puts down trickle down economics, contrary to his praise of Reagan (the originator of the idea), and then claims that we should lower tax rates of corporations in seeming support of those policies. Would you like syrup with that waffle?

Romney claims that we should bring jobs back to US when sending jobs overseas himself. Major problem for his campaign. Romney looking less composed than last debate, has a more crumpled face and has started stumbling over his own words.

UPDATE 10:20: Obama seems more composed in this debate, and also seems to more directly answer the audience questions. I don't think there can be too much argument that President Obama has won this debate so far. Romney again seems to waffle on gun control rights, again, giving Obama an edge. Romney talks about babies when the question is about gun control law.

UPDATE 10:14: Debating now on the attacks on Libya. Romney says Libya is in middle east - don't have to be a fact checker to understand how wrong that is. XBox live polls seems to say that people don't agree with Romney, and that his policies are just for political sake. Crowd cheers that Obama did the right thing, in sharing, when he knew, that this was a terror attack instead of making outlandish claims.

UPDATE 10:00: Romney says he wants to encourage those who are educated to come to the USA. Says he wants to allow children of unlawful immigrants, in support of Obama's policies, to have a path to citizenship.

UPDATE 9:54: Obama says that he has followed through on his promises, even if it's a long road. "The commitments I've made, I've kept." Attacks Romney on "no tax" pledge, even on millionaires and billionaires, quite successfully.

UPDATE 9:42: Romney keeps going back to his talking points, Obama seems to be consistantly answering the questions he's actually asked. He thinks women need special dispensation so that they can fulfill their traditional roles in the family. I don't think most women will find his arguments very persuasive. Obama speaks on his health care plan and actually relates it to the question, seeming to win this segment of the debate and bringing it back to "family issues" and not "women's issues." This seems to go right along with the Rs fight's to control birth control for women, but now he says that he thinks all women should have access to contraceptives. Looks like a flip-flop.

UPDATE 9:35: Obama hits great points on how Romney is going to increase spending, but yet doesn't really have a solid idea on how to increase government income. Obama may be spending more, but Romney plans to spend a lot more and doesn't have any idea how to pay for it. 

"Road to Greece" - great quote from Romney.

UPDATE 9:28: Did Romney just say he would eliminate capital gains tax? How much do people who own the most in this country pay in capital gains? Hedge funds anybody? So for those people where the most tax paid is actually paid in capital gains, he's going to get rid of them? Where does he plan to fund that particular tax remedy?

UPDATE 9:22: Is it true, or is it not true? I'll tell you what is true, South Park's view on drilling.


UPDATE 9:14 PM: Lowering gas prices is one of the key issues in this debate [see graphic below]. Obama says that we have created many more jobs in the energy field. Oil imports at the lowest level in 16 years. Is the Secretary of Energy very disconnected from the American public? Should we be more focused on clean energy? Obama claims that new, clean energy sources should be a key part of our new economic policies.

UPDATE 9:08 PM: Obama says he's planning building manufacturing jobs, how is planning to help college graduates? Romney says that Obama's policies haven't put people haven't put people back to work - says unemployment is 10.7% because of those who have dropped out of the search for a job.

UPADTE 9:02 PM: The debate gets underway - way to go Candy Crowley for being first female presidential debate moderator in a long time! See more about her.


UPDATE 8:45 PM: The best part of this debate - it's all live online! Go to YouTube and check it out if you think you can't see it because you don't have cable. You can also start watching it on XBox Live right now.


UPDATE 8:00 PM: Now that you've hopefully procured the items you will need for tonight's debate (if you haven't, see below), it's time to start thinking about what the candidates will likely be discussing. What do you, as a voter, want to ask the candidates? Here are some possibilities:

Immigration: The key to winning the Latino vote is, perhaps, hope. Obama has an edge on this front (and leads in the polling of Latino voters by a large margin) with his order to allow those brought to the country unlawfully during childhood a degree of tolerance. This is perhaps indicative of the direction he will take on immigation reform if reelected, and it has reassured many voters of what he believes. Romney has held the hard line that people in the US unlawfully should not be allowed to prosper, this was seen especially during the primary season.  Will he hold the same stance in this town hall, or will he shift to a more moderate position?

Health Care: An extremely complex issue, Obama will need to defend his health care reform law without going into extreme detail and losing viewer attention. The two camps hold very different views on the legitmacy of this law, and on the costs it will entail, but both tow the party line. Obama promised reform in this area if elected in 2008, and it cannot be argued that he didn't fulfill this promise. Romney, for his part, would keep the "good" parts of the law but substitute in his own supposed cost-saving reforms. Is public health health the key concern here, or is the expense of such a law, and the claimed unconstitutional mandate therein, the key to the health of the American economy? There will be sharp division on this issue, but likely no clear answers.

Defense and Foreign Policy: Did the Obama administration fail to protect Ambassador Stevens?Romney says yes. But why does Romney want to increase defense spending in such a large degree, is he drumming up the war machine? To voters, this is  a serious question that could have long-lasting implications.

Bipartisanship: How will the candidates actually get things done in Washington? There have been staggering divisions between the Rs and Ds in Congress during Obama's administration. He will need to be on the lookout for questions on how he will proceed with a gridlocked congress, and he will need to answer the question of what he actually plans to do with a second term. Romney will need to answer the same questions, but not being the incumbent, doesn't have the same burden as Obama.

Gallup says these are the top issues to American voters this election:


Update 6:40 PM: It's time to start getting ready for tonight's deabte! Remember, as with any live event, it's important to get fully prepared beforehand - here's a short list of what you'll need:

1. Live Stream - If you're like me and don't have cable, you need a reliable stream to catch all the action. Click here to visit YouTube's politics channel where you can find the live stream from many of the major news outlets.

2. Beer - Now is the time to procure your favorite local specialty beer, a requisite for every debate. If you haven't already, check out PolicyMic's not-so-official rules for the presidential drinking game.

3. Crumpled Paper - Because throwing the remote/lamps/end-tables at the TV when the candidate says something ridiculous just isn't practical. Other soft objects may be substituted as needed.

4. A Chocolate Snack - When the debate is over, you've finished off the beer and there's nothing soft left to throw at the TV, you'll need something to lift your spirits. Pumpkin pie is a festive substitute for chocolate for those who aren't fans.