Posts Tagged ‘Barack Obama’

In the end, it will be Barack Obama’s firewall vs. Mitt Romney’s inside straight. My former professor Marc Cooper described the outlook for both candidates in poker terms several weeks ago: on the flop, Obama would have three aces, while Romney would have to draw an inside straight on the turn and the river in order to win. Obama simply has more options. The New York Times calculated 512 conceivable victory scenarios for both candidates. Of these, Obama has 431 ways to win, Romney has 76, and 5 scenarios end up with a tie.

Looking at the PBS electoral college map, it’s possible to illustrate some of the scenarios for tomorrow night. My model assumes that Romney has locked down North Carolina and will get a narrow win in Florida. In that scenario, the electoral map looks something like this:

If Obama’s Ohio firewall holds and he wins the state, as most polls indicate, that puts him at 265 electoral votes – five shy of reelection. You will hear this again and again during the next 48 hours: no Republican has ever won the White House without carrying Ohio.

Despite historical precedent, it is mathematically possible for Romney to win the presidency while losing Ohio, but it will be very difficult. The only way Romney can win in this scenario is if he runs the board and wins every remaining swing state: New Hampshire, Virginia, Iowa, Colorado, AND Nevada.

Nevada has been looking increasingly unlikely for Romney, but let’s set that issue aside and look at the Ohio firewall map from a different perspective. If Obama wins Ohio, he only needs one more state – Nevada, Colorado, Iowa or Virginia – and it’s game over for Romney.




If Obama wins New Hampshire, he comes up just short at 269 and still needs another state.

What it comes down to is options. Obama has plenty, Romney doesn’t have enough.

Final Prediction:

Obama reelected 303-235, winning every swing state except Florida and North Carolina and the popular vote by 49-48.
Nevada puts Obama over the top once polls close at 10 pm EST.

Final poll numbers are coming out in the few days before the election. There’s a good recap of the numbers by Political Wire here and here. The signs are not looking good for Team Romney, according to Taegan Goddard’s Twitter account:

  • Movement toward Obama in nearly every national poll released today.
  • Latest USA Today/Gallup poll of 12 swing states shows a tie. Romney held a four point lead a month ago.
  • 18 new swing state polls today so far. Romney leads in just 4.
  • Publicly, the Romney campaign is bullish about its chances on Tuesday, as evidenced by surrogates who appeared on the Sunday morning talk shows today. However, when granted anonymity, they tend to hedge their bets:

    CBS News:

    Romney’s advisers know it’s now anyone’s guess. “A knife fight in the phone booth,” is a phrase you hear a lot. One adviser this morning was even more candid: “I’m not saying (Mr. Obama) is definitely going to lose.”

    But the advisers see comparable concern and tension in the Obama campaign, for all of its own outward displays of confidence.

    “We’re the challengers. We always knew we could lose,” one aide told me here in Dubuque. “They never contemplated they could lose.”

    The Associated Press:

    But Ryan’s biggest boosters realize he probably can write his own ticket, win or lose on Nov. 6.

    These Ryan allies spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private proposals they were preparing for him. They insist Ryan is not worried about anything beyond the election and is not planning anything except being a governing partner to Romney.

    They say that if he fails, Ryan’s instincts will be to return to the House — he is running for re-election to his House seat at the same time he’s Romney’s running mate — and resume his role as Budget Committee chairman.

    Some senior Republicans caution it might not be that easy.

    If Romney loses, Ryan will be seen as a leading White House contender in 2016. He will be a national party figure even without being a top member of the House leadership. That could breed resentment among current Republican leaders and perhaps splinter coalitions within the already fractured GOP alliances at the top of the House.

    A return also would make Ryan a leading target for Democrats. For the next few years, Democrats would lay traps in legislation, forcing him to take sides on measures that could come back to haunt him during a presidential bid.

    That is why some of Ryan’s biggest boosters are considering whether it wouldn’t be better for Ryan to resign from the House. He could write a book — “saving America” is a theme often bandied about — or teach at a university.

    After all, on the campaign trail, Ryan is as much lecturer as campaigner. Aides routinely set up giant video screens so Ryan can use visual aids to walk audiences through the minutiae of budget politics. Graphs and charts are as common as yard signs and American flags at some events, with Ryan settling into his role as explainer in chief.

    It’s no accident he embraces the “wonk” label aggressively. It could make him an attractive figure as a guest lecturer or visiting professor.

    Or Ryan could set up an office at a Washington think tank and focus on issues that interest him. That would give him a platform to shape public policy without the frustrations of electoral politics.

    Republicans are also preemptively blaming Sandy for a possible Romney loss on Tuesday. See these comments from Karl Rove in the Washington Post:

    “If you hadn’t had the storm, there would have been more of a chance for the [Mitt] Romney campaign to talk about the deficit, the debt, the economy. There was a stutter in the campaign. When you have attention drawn away to somewhere else, to something else, it is not to his [Romney’s] advantage,” Rove told The Washington Post.

    Rove, who served as George W. Bush’s deputy White House chief of staff, said that in the wake of the storm, there are “advantages and a minor disadvantage” for the president as well as a “subtle disadvantage to Romney.”

    “Obama has temporarily been a bipartisan figure this week. He has been the comforter-in-chief and that helps,” Rove said. The slight disadvantage for Obama, Rove said, “is that people in Eastern coastal communities are going to be preoccupied by issues of getting food to eat and having a roof over their heads; some of them won’t be thinking as much about the election.” But he conceded that those people reside in the Northeast, and not in the battleground states most likely to decide the election.

    Anonymous Romney aides to CBS News:

    Campaign sources concede superstorm Sandy stalled Romney’s momentum. For eight straight days, polls showed him picking up support. The campaign’s internal polling, which is using different turnout models than most public polls, had him on solid ground in Florida, Virginia, North Carolina and Iowa. He had a slight lead or was tied in Ohio, New Hampshire and Wisconsin and was in striking distance in Pennsylvania, a state Republicans hadn’t won since Ronald Reagan in 1984.

    Coming off the pivotal first debate, the campaign pushed the message that the 2008 Barack Obama of hope and change had become the 2012 President Obama of divide and destroy, making the campaign about small things — Big Bird and binders — at a time the nation had big challenges. It resonated with voters in those swing states.

    But then came something very big: a natural disaster that left a path of death and destruction on the East Coast. Suddenly, there was little talk about small things.

    Those leads in Florida, Virginia, North Carolina and Iowa still hold in the internal polls, campaign sources say, but Romney’s movement flattened out or, as the campaign likes to say, “paused.” Nevada is now off the table, and those neck-and-neck swing states are even tighter.

    Haley Barbour on CNN:

    (CNN) – Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour on Sunday argued Superstorm Sandy not only wreaked havoc on the Northeast this week, but blunted Mitt Romney’s campaign as well.

    “The hurricane is what broke Romney’s momentum. I don’t think there is any question about it,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

    Barbour, a Republican, said the barrage of news coverage surrounding the storm replaced the political debate in the final days leading up to the election. He added, however, he doesn’t blame the media for covering the storm.

    “Any day that the news media is not talking about jobs or the economy, taxes or spending, deficit and debt, Obamacare and energy, is a good day for Barack Obama,” he continued, adding the news “blackout” on those issues has helped the president.

    “Whether it will be good enough remains to be seen,” he said.

    Also, Bush 2004 strategist Matthew Dowd on the three signs a campaign is losing:

    DOWD: …every time you feel a losing campaign, these three things happen. The first thing happens is, don’t believe — the public polls are wrong. That’s the first sign of a campaign that’s about to lose. The second thing, we’re going to change the nature of the electorate, and you’re not seeing it reflected in the polls. And the third thing is, the only poll that counts is Election Day. When you hear those things, you know you’re about to lose.

    Bottom line: if your side is preemptively making excuses or telegraphing the running mate’s backup plans before the election, odds are you’re going to lose. I’ll publish my pre-election predictions in the next day or two.

    Update: From Nate Silver: Between national + battleground state polls so far today: 29 Obama leads, 3 Romney leads, 5 ties.

9:00 – Bob Schieffer kicking off the third debate, making his opening statement before introducing Obama and Romney.
Schieffer notes that debate is on 50th anniversary of JFK’s address to the nation during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

9:04 – First question is about Libya.
Romney won the coin toss earlier, so he gets the first question.
Romney reciting list of issues in MENA in aftermath of Arab Spring – Egypt, Libya, Mali, Syria.
Congratulates Obama for getting Osama bin Laden. “We can’t kill our way out of this mess.”
9:07 – Obama response
Notes he ended the war in Iraq.
Re: Libya – Took leadership to organize international coalition to liberate country under yoke of dictatorship for 42 years, for less than cost of 2 weeks in Iraq.
To Romney: “Your strategy has been one that has previously been all over the map.”
Romney: “My strategy is to go after them.”
“We don’t want another Iraq. We don’t want another Afghanistan.”
“Rising tide of chaos” rushing in in the Middle East

Obama: Hits Romney for saying Russia was biggest geopolitical threat. “The Cold War has been over for 20 years.”
“Every time you’ve offered an opinion, you’ve been wrong.”

Romney: “Attacking me is not an agenda.”
Romney and Obama arguing over SOFA in Iraq.

9:16 – Schieffer question about Syria to President Obama… It’s been one year since you told Assad he had to go. 30k Syrians have died, the war goes on. Should we reassess our policy and find better way to influence events there? Is that even possible?
Obama: Doing everything we can to help opposition… Recognize for us to get more entangled militarily in Syria is a serious step. Make sure we know who we’re helping. I am confident that Assad’s days are numbered.
Romney: “We don’t want military involvement. We don’t want to get drawn into a conflict there.”
Romney: “I believe that Assad must go. I believe that he will go.”
Obama praises Romney for supporting operation in Libya, but hits him for “mission creep” comment.

9:23 – Schieffer question: During Egyptian turmoil, there came a point you said time for Mubarak to go. Any regrets about that?
Obama: No I don’t. America has to stand with democracy.
Schieffer question to Romney: Would you have stuck with Mubarak?
Romney: No, I supported the president’s action there.
Romney pivots to the economy, quotes Adm. Mike Mullen saying the deficit is our biggest national security threat.

9:28 – Schieffer question: What is America’s role in the world?
Romney: I absolutely believe America has a responsibility and privilege to defend freedom, make the world more peaceful.
Romney hits Obama for not supporting Green Revolution in Iran.
Obama hits Romney for praising George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.
Romney pivots to the economy, jobs, small business.

9:38 – Schieffer question to Romney: You want to increase military spending for the Navy. Where are you going to get the money?
Romney: Get rid of ObamaCare. Take program after program that we don’t need and get rid of them.
Obama hits Romney on $5 trillion tax cut and $2 trillion on military spending.
Obama: “The math simply doesn’t work.”
Romney responds by saying he was governor, balanced budgets, ran the Olympics.
Romney talking about size of Navy in 1916. Washington Post factcheck on this talking point here.
Ouch… brutal Obama rebuttal

9:45 – Schieffer question – would either of you be willing to declare an attack on Israel is an attack on the United States?
Obama: “As long as I am president of the United States, Iran will not get a nuclear weapon.”
Romney: If Israel is attacked, we have their back.
Romney calls for Ahmadinejad to be indicted for his words under the Genocide Convention.
Obama: “We’re not going to allow Iran to perpetually engage in negotiations that lead nowhere.” “That clock is ticking.”
Romney brings up the apology tour…
Obama: “Nothing Governor Romney said was true. This has been the biggest whopper of this campaign.”
Romney: “We are four years closer to a nuclear Iran.”
Romney hits Obama for skipping Israel trip during his tour of the Middle East.
Ouch… Obama hits Romney on Israel trip. – When I went to Israel as a presidential candidate, I didn’t travel with donors and go to fundraisers, which Romney did during his trip earlier this year.
Romney: “I don’t see our influence growing around the world. I see our influence receding.”
Obama: “Governor, the problem is you’ve been all over the map.”
Obama hits Romney for saying in 2007-2008 campaign it wasn’t worth moving heaven and earth to go after Osama bin Laden.

10:04 – Schieffer question: US scheduled to turn over Afghan security in 2014. Key question: what do you do if deadline arrives and it is obvious Afghans unable to handle their security. Do we still leave?
Romney: Warns of dangers of unstable Pakistan with nuclear weapons.
Obama: In position we can transition out. No reason Americans should die when Afghans perfectly capable of taking care of their own country.
Obama: After a decade at war, it’s time to do some nation building here at home.

10:09 – Schieffer: General Allen says Americans continue to die at the hands of groups supported by Pakistan, yet we continue to give Pakistan billions of dollars. Is it time to divorce Pakistan?
Romney: No, it’s not time to divorce Pakistan.
Schieffer: What is your position on use of drones?
Romney: Should use any means to protect our people and allies around the world.
Obama: Notes that his administration supported protest/pro-democratic movements in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.

10:14 – Schieffer pivots to next topic, China.
Obama: China an adversary and also a potential partner in the international community if it plays by the rules
We won just about every case filed against China with the WTO.
Romney criticized me for being too tough, protectionist in that tire case. Those workers don’t feel that way.
Schieffer to Romney: If you declare China a currency manipulator on day one, aren’t you risking a trade war?
Obama hits Rommey: “Governor Romney’s right. You are familiar with jobs shipped overseas…”
Romney: “I would do nothing to hurt the American auto industry.”
10:15 – Still 15 minutes to go in the debate, and the Obama campaign is already declaring victory on its Facebook page.
Obama to Romney re auto bailout: “You keep on trying to airbrush history.”

10:29 – Closing statements, Obama goes first.
Romney giving his closing statement.

10:34 – Game over… Now for the final two-week stretch to the finish line.

Here’s a brief reading list on the major issues likely to come up during tonight’s final presidential debate between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.

LIBYA:

Los Angeles Times: No evidence found of Al Qaeda role in Libya attack
Washington Post: CIA documents supported Susan Rice’s description of Benghazi attacks

IRAN:

New York Times: U.S. Officials Say Iran Has Agreed to Nuclear Talks
New York Times: U.S. and Iran Deny Plan for Nuclear Talks
ProPublica: Reading Guide: Where Obama and Romney Actually Stand on Iran
Foreign Policy: Don’t Assume Iran Is the Greatest Threat
Reuters: Obama faces tough call on Iran oil sanctions

SYRIA:

The Guardian: Syria will be a defining issue of the next US presidency
Newsday: Obama and Romney: Where they stand on Syria

ISRAEL:

Haaretz: Israel’s former Mossad chief urges dialogue with Iran, calls Obama policy ‘brave’

AFGHANISTAN:

New York Times: Two Campaigns Skirt Talk of Tough Choices in Afghanistan

CHINA:

Washington Post: Obama, Romney differ less on China trade, investment issues than they claim
New York Times: On China Currency, Hot Topic in Debate, Truth Is Nuanced

DRONES:

Bureau of Investigative Journalism: Obama’s five rules for covert drone strikes

SPEECHES:

Mitt Romney foreign policy speech at Virginia Military Institute, October 8, 2012.
Barack Obama 2012 address before the UN General Assembly, September 25, 2012.

MISCELLANEOUS:

Foreign Policy: The Foreign Policy Super Bowl
Foreign Policy: Fight Night
Global Post: Binders Full of Foreign Policy
Wall Street Journal: Guide: Obama vs. Romney on China, Iran, Syria
CNN: Obama’s foreign policy on trial
Defense News: Obama, Romney To Debate Global Threats, Military Spending

And to wrap things up on a lighter note…

The Onion: Romney Campaign Releases New Picture Of Candidate Standing In Situation Room During Bin Laden Raid

By now, most of you have seen this exchange between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama about the attack on the diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya in which four Americans were killed on September 11:

Here’s the transcript of that exchange:

CROWLEY: Because we’re — we’re closing in, I want to still get a lot of people in. I want to ask you something, Mr. President, and then have the governor just quickly.

Your secretary of state, as I’m sure you know, has said that she takes full responsibility for the attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi. Does the buck stop with your secretary of state as far as what went on here?

OBAMA: Secretary Clinton has done an extraordinary job. But she works for me. I’m the president and I’m always responsible, and that’s why nobody’s more interested in finding out exactly what happened than I do.

The day after the attack, governor, I stood in the Rose Garden and I told the American people in the world that we are going to find out exactly what happened. That this was an act of terror and I also said that we’re going to hunt down those who committed this crime.

And then a few days later, I was there greeting the caskets coming into Andrews Air Force Base and grieving with the families.

And the suggestion that anybody in my team, whether the Secretary of State, our U.N. Ambassador, anybody on my team would play politics or mislead when we’ve lost four of our own, governor, is offensive. That’s not what we do. That’s not what I do as president, that’s not what I do as Commander in Chief.

CROWLEY: Governor, if you want to…

ROMNEY: Yes, I — I…

CROWLEY: … quickly to this please.

ROMNEY: I — I think interesting the president just said something which — which is that on the day after the attack he went into the Rose Garden and said that this was an act of terror.

OBAMA: That’s what I said.

ROMNEY: You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack, it was an act of terror.

It was not a spontaneous demonstration, is that what you’re saying?

OBAMA: Please proceed governor.

ROMNEY: I want to make sure we get that for the record because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.

OBAMA: Get the transcript.

CROWLEY: It — it — it — he did in fact, sir. So let me — let me call it an act of terror…

OBAMA: Can you say that a little louder, Candy?

CROWLEY: He — he did call it an act of terror. It did as well take — it did as well take two weeks or so for the whole idea there being a riot out there about this tape to come out. You are correct about that.

The key – and largely unnoticed – part of this exchange was not Candy Crowley’s factcheck of Romney. Rather, it was President Obama’s gentle nudge to “Please proceed, governor.” Having watched that Libya exchange replayed several times on the news over the past two days, I couldn’t help but notice Obama’s poker face as he said this. It reminds me of Napoleon Bonaparte’s famous phrase, “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”

Obama got the first response to the question, and Romney was clearly chomping at the bit to respond because he and the Republican party view the administration’s handling of the Benghazi attack as a political liability to be exploited. Looking back on it, it seems as if Obama saw where Romney was heading with his attack and rather than cut him off, encouraged him to continue with his train of thought and he played right into Obama’s hands.

Jon Stewart weighed in on it during last night’s Daily Show (scroll to 1:38 in the clip).

We’re a few minutes away from showtime… Watch this space.

9:02 – Candidates walk out…
9:03 – First question from a first-time voter, a college student. Asks how he can support himself and get a job after school. Romney gets the first question after winning a coin toss earlier today.
Romney: When do you graduate? (2014) Presuming I’m president in 2014, I’m going to make sure you get a job.
9:05 – Obama response: The future is bright. I want to build manufacturing jobs in this country. Romney said let Detroit go bankrupt. Obama hits Romney on auto bailout within first minute of his response.
9:08 – Followup question by Candy Crowley: What about people unemployed six months or more, long-term unemployed who need a job right now?
Romney – We have fewer people working today than when the president took office. If you calculate people who stopped looking for work, unemployment rate would be 10.7 percent.
Romney plugs his 12 million jobs in 4 years proposal.
Romney to Obama: “You took Detroit bankrupt.”
Obama rebutall: “Candy, what Governor Romney said just isn’t true.”
Obama: Romney doesn’t have a five-point plan, he has a one-point plan.

9:11 – Second question: Energy Secretary on record saying it’s not the policy of Energy Department to lower gas prices. Do you agree?
Obama – we’ve increased oil production to highest in 16 years, increases in coal production. Can’t just produce traditional sources of energy, need to look to the future.
Basically, Romney’s plan is to let the oil companies write the energy policy.
9:14 – Romney rebuttal: production on federal lands down.
What was the cost? 2–25 birds killed, brought out the Migratory Bird Act.
Romney hits Obama on Keystone XL pipeline.

Candy Crowley followup: Are we looking at the new normal here?
Obama – Gas demand on the rise, but so is gas production.
What he said was not true.
Obama and Romney going at it, Obama repeatedly saying what he says is not true, Romney repeatedly pressing him to answer the question.
Looks like rules set by both campaigns in the Memorandum of Understanding went out the window.
Obama points out Grassley favors wind tax credit that Romney opposes… Specifically targeting Iowa voters

9:24 – Third question: asking about tax deductions important to the middle class.
Romney mentions middle class buried last 4 years, a reference to Biden gaffe which went unmentioned during VP debate.
Obama rebuttal: I’ve cut taxes for middle class families and small businesses. Want to continue those tax cuts for middle class families and small businesses. If we’re serious about deficit reduction, in addition to spending cuts, wealthy have to do a bit more.
Obama hits Romney for 60 Minutes interview quote about it being fair he pays lower tax rate
Romney rebuttal: trying to push back on Obama by tying unemployment rate to low taxes.
Again pushes 5-point economic plan.

9:32 Crowley follow-up question: Romney says tax cut not going to top 5 percent… Settled?
Obama: No, it’s not settled! What he wants to do costs about $5 trillion, defense spending another $2 trillion, continue the Bush tax cuts, that’s $8 trillion. How are you going to do it? He can’t tell you.
Big Bird!
Obama has the soundbite of the night so far – “sketchy deal”
Romney rebuttal: Cites his business record, Olympics experience.

Question: How do you rectify inequalities in workplace, women who make less than men?
9:37 – Obama: Mentions his upbringing by single mom and his grandmother.
Mentions his signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Act.
Romney rebuttal: When I was governor, all applicants were men.
My government had more women in senior leadership positions than any other state.
Obama: Hits Romney campaign for not having a position on whether they supported Lilly Ledbetter Act.
Also mentions contraception coverage in health care and Planned Parenthood funding.

Question: Disappointed with lack of progress in last 4 years. Attribute problems in economics and abroad to missteps of President Bush. Fear return to policies of those years. What is difference between you and George W. Bush?
9:45 – Romney: President Bush and I different people, different times. My 5-point plan different than what he would have done.
Trade – I’ll crack down on China, President Bush didn’t.
Romney on Obama: “His forecast for the next four years is more deficits”

Obama rebuttal: We have been digging our way out of policies misplaced and focused for the top doing very well. 31 consecutive months of job growth.
When Romney says he has diff econ plan, the centerpiece of his economic plan is tax cuts.
Obama: “Governor, you’re the last person who’s going to get tough on China.”

Question: Mr. President, I voted for you in 2008. Why should I vote for you again?
9:52 Obama recites list of pledges he’s accomplished…
Commitments I’ve made I’ve kept. Those I haven’t not for lack of trying, and will do in a second term.
Romney rebuttal: “I think you know better.”
Per CNN timekeeping, President Obama has spoken about 5 minutes more than Governor Romney.

Question: What do you plan on doing about immigrants without green cards who are productive members of society?
Questioner has a Freudian slip, addresses “President Romney.”
Romney: We are a nation of immigrants. Notes that his father was born in Mexico.
I will not grant amnesty.
Military service a pathway to becoming permanent resident.
Notes that President Obama promised to reform immigration in his first term, hadn’t done it.
10:01 Obama rebuttal: Need to fix broken immigration system.
Go after gangbangers, not students
Notes Romney would have vetoed the DREAM Act, hits him on self-deportation.
Romney rebuttal: E-verify portion of the Arizona law a model for the nation.
I asked a question – why when you said you would get legislation in first year and you didn’t do it?
Self-deportation: I said we’re not going to round up 12 million illegals, let them make their own choice.
Obama and Romney getting testy again: Obama – I don’t look at my pension. It’s not as big as yours… (audience laughs)
Obama hits Romney for having Kris Kobach, author of Arizona immigration law, as his immigration adviser.

Question: State Department refused extra security for Benghazi. Who denied it and why?
10:09 – Obama: These people are my representatives. No one more concerned about their safety and security than I am.
Hits Romney for trying to politicize Libya attack.
“When it comes to national security, I mean what I say.”
Romney rebuttal: Hits Obama for going to Vegas fundraiser after Benghazi victims memorial service.
Pivots to Israel and Syria, hits Obama for “apology tour.”

Crowley follow up: Does the buck stop with Hillary Clinton?
Obama: Hillary works for me. I am responsible.

Question: What are you planning to do to limit availability of assault weapons?
10:17 – Obama: Nation believes in Second Amendment. Instances where I had to comfort families who lost somebody, recently in Aurora.
Romney rebuttal: We don’t want to have automatic weapons, already illegal in this country.
Hits Obama on Fast and Furious gun-running program

Crowley followup: Why did you change your mind?
10:23 Romney: In my state, both sides came together. Mutually agreed piece of legislation. What we need more of. We haven’t had leadership in Washington on bipartisan basis.
Obama rebuttal: “I think Governor Romney was for an assault weapons ban before he was against it.”

Question: Outsourcing of jobs overseas taken toll on our economy… What plans do you have to keep jobs here in the United States?
10:26 – Romney: Lot of jobs going to China. 500k manufacturing jobs lost in last 4 years.
Made it less attractive for enterprises to come here than to go offshore.
Trickle-down government has never worked here or anywhere else.
I will label China a currency manipulator.
Obama rebuttal: I want to close loopholes… All those changes in our tax code would make a difference.

Crowley follow up: How do you convince companies to bring labor back here?
Romney: Have to make America most attractive place for entrepreneurs. That’s what bring jobs.
Obama: Some jobs not going to come back – low wage, low skill. I want high wage, high skill jobs.

Last question: What do you believe is the biggest misperception the American people have about you as a man and candidate? Opportunity to debunk and set us straight?
10:35 Romney: I care about 100 percent of the American people. I care about our kids.
Romney preempts Obama on 47 percent comments.
Obama rebuttal: I believe free enterprise system is greatest engine of prosperity.
Everybody should have fair shot, do their fair share, play by same rules.
Hits Romney on 47 percent comments
Obama saves 47 percent for his closing comment, when Romney can’t rebut it. Good strategic move.

Game over…

I’ll be live blogging and tweeting the VP debate tonight. Watch this space…

8:50 – Martha Raddatz introduced, takes the podium…
8:52 – Raddatz just referred to Paul Ryan as “Congressman Ryan” from the stage. Did she just violate the terms of the debate?
8:54 – @TheFix: What were the odds on Martha Raddatz mentioning Chamillionaire? 1 trillion to 1? #vpdebate
8:58 – For your amusement, follow Onion Politics on Twitter tonight, who will be tweeting in character as Joe Biden as only they can.

9:02 – Biden and Ryan take the stage Let the games begin…
9:03 – Raddatz opens with a question about Libya, noting today is the one month anniversary of the attack. Was this a massive intelligence failure, Vice President Biden? “It was a tragedy.”
9:05 – Biden pivots response to mention ending war in Iraq, getting Osama bin Laden
Biden channels John McCain’s “gates of hell” comment from 2007 GOP primaries
9:06 – Ryan points out that the US ambassador in France has marines guarding him. Shouldn’t US ambassador in Benghazi have had a marine detachment guarding him?
“What we are watching on our TV screens is the unraveling of the Obama foreign policy.”
9:09 – Biden: “With all due respect that’s a bunch of malarkey.” (Why?) “With all due respect, not a single thing he said was true.”

9:11 – Biden on administration’s initial story about protest: Intelligence community told us that… they learned more facts and changed their assessment.
9:12 – Raddatz to Ryan: Should US apologize for burning Korans, urinating on corpses. Ryan – Yes. For urinating on corpses. Not for US values.
9:14 – Good/tough question from Raddatz for both candidates: How effective would a military strike on Iran be?
9:16 – Biden on administration handling of Iran: “These are the most crippling sanctions in the history of sanctions.”
9:18 – Ryan hits Obama for going on The View while in New York City but not meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu.
9:19 – 20 minutes in, purely from an optics perspective, Biden looks like he’s having more fun with the debate than Obama.

9:23 – Raddatz pivots to the economy.
9:24 – Biden hits Romney for “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” op-ed and 47 percent comments.
9:26 – Ryan asks Romney about the unemployment rate in his hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania.
9:28 – Ryan telling story of Mark Nixon, family in MA helped by Romneys after two of his children paralyzed in a car accident.
Ryan zings Romney for gaffes… Biden laughs, responding “But I always mean what I say.”
9:31 – @mollyesque: Biden: “Stop talking about how you care about people. Show me something. Show me a policy.”
9:32 – Biden hits Ryan for requesting stimulus money for the state of Wisconsin…

9:34 – Raddatz pivots to Medicare
9:37 – Biden mentions Sarah Palin and death panels in rebuttal to Paul Ryan’s opening response. Fact check: Palin’s death panel comment came in 2009, AFTER the Obama administration was in office.
9:38 – Ryan: “They got caught with their hand in the cookie jar.”
9:40 – Some pretty contentious back and forth going on, as Ryan and Biden speaking over and interrupting each other.

9:45 – Raddatz moves on… next question is on taxes. Who will pay more or less in taxes?
9:47 – Looks like the “Mr. Ryan” agreement went out the window. Raddatz and Biden have been referring to him as “Congressman” throughout the debate
9:51 – @TheFix: Dem analysis of debate so far: “Biden rules, Ryan sucks”. GOP analysis of debate so far: “Ryan rules, Biden sucks”. #vpdebate
9:53 – Ryan ALMOST steps in it with a John Kennedy reference… “Now you’re Jack Kennedy?”
9:54 – @DeathStarPR: A little less conversation, a little more lightsaber duel to the death. #VPDebate #Debates

9:55 – Raddatz pivots to defense spending.

9:57 – Raddatz pivots to Afghanistan. Why not leave now? What more can we accomplish?
10:02 – Ryan: “Problems are growing abroad, but jobs aren’t growing here at home.”
10:07 – Are they arguing about Afghan weather and geography?

10:08 – Raddatz pivots to Syria… Why no military action in Syria?
10:10 – @ZekeJMiller: Biden hits Romney for not saying what he’d do in Syria
10:11 – @joshrogin: Biden contradicts State Department on Benghazi security http://t.co/o8jri6OZ
10:12 – Watching the clock… Biden has spoken a full 3 minutes more than Ryan.
10:13 – Ryan: We should not have called Bashar Assad a reformer. We should not have waited for Russia to give us the green light at the UN.

10:14 – Raddatz asks Biden and Ryan – both Catholics – what role religion plays in their views on abortion.
10:15 – Ryan: “I don’t see how a person can separate their public life from their private life.”
“The policy of a Romney administration will be to oppose abortion except in cases of rape, incest and the life of the mother.”
10:17 – Biden: “My religion defines who I am. I’ve been a practicing Catholic my whole life.”
Biden says he accepts church teachings that life begins at conception personally, but won’t impose it on others.

10:21 – Candidates pivot to Supreme Court

10:22 – Raddatz closing question: What would you say to American hero about this campaign? Ever embarrassed about the tone?
10:23 – Biden hits super PACs/Citizens United, calling them an “abomination”
10:24 – Ryan: You had a president run on hope and change 4 years ago who now campaigns on attack, blame and defame.

10:29 – Closing statements… Biden goes first.
10:32 – That’s a wrap. Now onto the Spin Room and post-debate coverage!

I forgot to link to my latest submission to Huffington Post the other day… Here it is.

Looks like the Bain and tax returns attacks finally got under Mitt Romney’s skin. Buzzfeed reports:

In speeches from Des Moines to Dallas, Romney has always been careful to hedge his tough digs at Obama with a civil nod toward the president’s moral character: “He’s a nice guy,” the Republican has often said. “He just has no idea how the private economy works.” But Tuesday’s speech included no such hedge — and one campaign adviser said there’s a reason for that.

“[Romney] has said Obama’s a nice fellow, he’s just in over his head,” the adviser said. “But I think the governor himself believes this latest round of attacks that have impugned his integrity and accused him of being a felon go so far beyond that pale that he’s really disappointed. He believes it’s time to vet the president. He really hasn’t been vetted; McCain didn’t do it.”

Indeed, facing what the candidate and his aides believe to be a series of surprisingly ruthless, unfounded, and unfair attacks from the Obama campaign on Romney’s finances and business record, the Republican’s campaign is now prepared to go eye for an eye in an intense, no-holds-barred act of political reprisal, said two Romney advisers who spoke on condition of anonymity. In the next chapter of Boston’s pushback — which began last week when they began labeling Obama a “liar” — very little will be off-limits, from the president’s youthful drug habit, to his ties to disgraced Chicago politicians.

“I mean, this is a guy who admitted to cocaine use, had a sweetheart deal with his house in Chicago, and was associated and worked with Rod Blagojevich to get Valerie Jarrett appointed to the Senate,” the adviser said. “The bottom line is there’ll be counterattacks.”

The reference to Obama’s past drug use seems to suggest that former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu wasn’t going off-script after all when he dinged the president for spending “his early years in Hawaii smoking something” during a Tuesday morning Fox News appearance.

The Obama campaign released this simple but brutal ad yesterday: A series of headlines from recent weeks about Romney’s tenure at Bain, outsourcing jobs, and use of offshore tax havens, set to audio of Romney’s off-key performance of “America the Beautiful” at a campaign event in Florida last January. TPM’s David Kurtz compares this ad to the Lyndon Johnson campaign’s now legendary “Daisy” ad from the 1964 election.

The Atlantic’s James Fallows appeared on NPR yesterday to discuss the ad, and during the course of that conversation, the comparison was made between what Obama is doing to Romney now to what the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and Republican operatives did to John Kerry’s military record in Vietnam during the 2004 Election. An excerpt from that conversation:

FALLOWS: It has. And I think it’s worth focusing on why this is such a potential problem for the Romney campaign. The entire reason behind his campaign through the last year in the Republican primaries and now in the next four months in the general election is that America has business problems. He is a businessman, therefore, he’s the right person for the job.

And what the Obama campaign is doing on the basis of this Bain imbroglio is something similar to what George W. Bush was doing to John Kerry back in 2004 in the episode known as swiftboating. And by that, I mean making something that a candidate has assumed to be his strength, which, in John Kerry’s case was his military background, into a weakness.

RAZ: And so if the Obama campaign can make Mitt Romney’s business background not the presumed basis of his campaign, but instead a source of controversy, a source of potential weakness for him, that really does make problems in the campaign for the Romney team.

So if the Obama campaign is swiftboating, as you say, Mitt Romney – I mean, one of the criticisms of John Kerry was that he didn’t respond to this back in 2004, and Romney is only started to respond to it.

FALLOWS: Exactly. And I should make clear, in saying swiftboating, I’m not asserting that these are false accusations. I’m just saying they have this jujitsu effect. And it’s actually surprising the Romney team is not better prepared for them than it is. Number one, because they’ve had the last eight years since the John Kerry episode. Number two, over the last year, this is what Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and others were using as their angle of attack on Mitt Romney’s business background too.

Fallows’s analogy of the Bain attack being political jiujitsu by turning a candidate’s strength into a potential liability is correct. However, there are a few other reasons why the swiftboating analogy is not accurate here that are worth pointing out (Full disclosure/background: I reviewed hundreds of pages of military records for Kerry and others while working at CNN during the course of the Swift Boat controversy as it was playing out in 2004.)

  • After having reviewed multiple incident reports and service records obtained independently through Freedom of Information Act requests, documents filed contemporaneously at the time backed Kerry’s version of the events, every single time. In other words, the underlying basis for challenging Kerry’s service record was entirely false. In Romney’s case, independent reporting of multiple news organizations, as well as Bain Capital’s SEC filings and his 2002 testimony before the Ballot Law Commission in Massachusetts are the basis for questioning his version of events.
  • The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth were an independent 527 group. This ad – and the entire strategy of attacking Romney’s record at Bain – was a direct hit organized by the Obama campaign.
  • Romney was attacked for his Bain record during the 2012 Republican primaries. He could have put a lot of these issues to rest if he had put the information out there months ago. Kerry’s military service was never challenged during the Democratic primaries, and did not become an issue until the Swift Boat group started running ads shortly after Kerry accepted his party’s nomination.
  • His continued refusal to release tax returns beyond 2010 is also compounding the problem. Also consider that when Romney was being vetted to be John McCain’s possible running mate back in 2008, he gave the McCain campaign 23 years’ worth of tax returns. Even though his tax returns and the end of his tenure at Bain are two completely separate issues, the Obama campaign has effectively joined them together at the hip. In this respect, Romney’s response is similar to Kerry’s refusal to release his full personnel and medical file (Standard Form 180) back in 2004.

The Obama campaign has effectively turned Romney’s record in the private sector – in his words, one of the main reasons why he should be elected president – into a liability. However, after looking at everything the Swift Boat campaign did to John Kerry, the analogy should end there. Romney’s current problem is almost entirely of his own making – the conflicting answers he’s given in the past and last week, as well as the SEC documents and his own refusal to release more tax returns.

Update: Business Insider compares Romney’s handling of the Bain questioning to Bill Clinton’s infamous and widely mocked “the meaning of the word ‘is'” during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Update II: Fallows has written a blog post elaborating on his swiftboating comments during the NPR interview. The whole thing is worth a read.

Update III: Another Kerry 2004/Romney 2012 comparison that has nothing to do with swiftboating –  both candidates used the same slogan, “Believe in America.”