Robert Schlesinger 9:52: Halfway through the debate Romney is holding his own—no surprise, challengers often look good in first debates. Neither one has landed a strong blow or had a major gaffe. The little CNN dial-meter of undecided voters holds few surprises thus far: Women tend to approve of the president more while men are more favorable toward Romney.
Mary Kate Cary 9:49: First hour: This is the side of Mitt Romney everybody's been waiting to see. Seems a lot more passionate than I expected, he's really enjoying this. Obama's not doing himself any favors.
Robert Schlesinger 9:47: Obama is the first to mention the $716 saved in the Medicare program through Obamacare—smart move because it allows him to define that figure before Romney can.
Robert Schlesinger 9:45: Romney describes states as the laboratory of democracy. I wonder if this will come back on him if he tries to raise the welfare lie his campaign has spread for the last few months.
Peter Roff 9:40: Governor Romney scores a direct hit on President Obama on energy, directly refuting the charge about tax breaks for the oil companies by explaining they go to small companies while the president has sent almost half a century's worth of the same amount of money in credits and tax breaks to green energy over the course of his administration.
Robert Schlesinger 9:40: Interesting—nearly 40 minutes in and no mention of "Ryan budget" yet.
Robert Schlesinger 9:35: Question for Governor Romney: Which tax increases did more damage to the economy, Reagan's in 1982 or Clinton's in 1993?
Peter Roff 9:33: Earlier, President Obama urged us to look at history. As far as the whole business of addressing deficit spending is concerned, the history of these grand deals to increase some taxes by a little bit in exchange for larger spending cuts always ends up the same way: the taxes go up, revenue declines because the higher rates have an adverse effect on economic growth, and the spending cuts never materialize.
Peter Roff 9:31: What neither candidate seems to be willing to say about the deficit is that it, in and of itself, is not the issue. The problem is that spending has exploded when compared to revenues. Mild spending restraint, cuts in the rate of growth of spending, can get the budget back near balance very quickly as long as we are still able to borrow from the Social Security Trust Fund. What President Obama seems to forget is that the economy was doing rather well until the crash—which was caused by the collapse of the sub-prime mortgage program backed by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and it's impact on the big investment firms on Wall Street. It was not caused by the Bush/Obama tax cuts or by the costs of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Robert Schlesinger 9:32: Umm, Governor Romney, repealing Obamacare adds to the deficit and shortens the life of Medicare. Just sayin’.
Peter Roff 9:28: Actually, the Romney plan to reduce rates while reducing the value of deductions and tax credits is the same successful strategy pursued by Ronald Reagan in the 1986 Tax Reform Act that helped create 20 million new jobs by the end of the decade.
Peter Roff 9:29: Romney is delivering a strong defense of his tax plan and has called the president on several obvious errors in his analysis. President Obama has misstated the effect of his policies and his explanation of what is going on in the economy comes straight out of "Fantasyland."
Mary Kate Cary 9:24: Romney is coming across as specific and credible. I'm watching CNN's response meters with undecided voters. Mitt's killing Obama among undecideds. Obama is coming across as a little annoyed, can tell he really doesn't want to be there.
Robert Schlesinger 9:24: First "zinger" of the night from Obama, about Donald Trump being a small business. The problem with the rule of absolute silence in the auditorium is that it’s going to be hard for even funny comments to not sound flat.
[See a collection of political cartoons on the 2012 campaign.]