Updated 2 p.m. ET- DENVER – Voters will have their chance to size up President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney side-by-side, when both men take the stage at the University of Denver Wednesday night for their first of three debates.
And with Election Day just a month away, expectations and anticipation for tonight’s showdown are mile high.
Romney, the Republican presidential hopeful, trails Obama in most polls, both nationally and in key battleground states. Tonight’s debate offers the challenger an opportunity to change the dynamics of the race and Romney is expected to take an aggressive posture in hopes of doing just that.
Both candidates have spent a lot of time in the critical swing state fighting for those nine electoral votes but recent polling has President Barack Obama in the lead. Gov. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., discusses.
For his part, Obama will have to guard against his Republican opponent’s attacks – particularly on the anemic economy and the administration’s response to a terrorist attack against a U.S. embassy last month in Libya – all while trying to illustrate the “contrast” between himself and Romney.
"Gov. Romney, to me, seemingly shifts his shape. I don't really know what Gov. Romney stands for – you look at his Massachusetts record, you look at what he promoted when he was running for the U.S. Senate – and now you compare that with his various proposals since he's been running for office," said Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat. "So I think this debate tonight will continue the dynamic of the campaign that's focused on contrasts and differences."
The stakes on Wednesday evening are especially high for Romney, who’s trailed Obama in most polls since each party’s national conventions concluded at the beginning of September. A series of missteps by the former Massachusetts governor – involving his quick response to the Libya incident and the revelation of secretly recorded remarks seeming to write off 47 percent of voters, whom he called “dependent” upon government – have put the private equity titan in the unenviable position of having to make up ground versus Obama.
October’s three debates might be Romney’s last, best hope to accomplish that goal. Political observers typically look toward three moments in an election for a candidate to change the state of the campaign. The first two – choosing a running mate and the national convention – have come and gone.
Slideshow: On the campaign trail
In the final push in the 2012 presidential election, candidates Mitt Romney and Barack Obama make their last appeals to voters.
That leaves the debates – tonight in Denver, Oct. 11 in Hempstead, N.Y., and Oct. 22 in Boca Raton, Fla. – for Romney to make his argument.
The Republican nominee will look to deliver the kind of aggressive attacks on Obama for which his conservative supporters have clamored.
Several Romney voters at events here in Colorado preceding Wednesday’s showdown said they feared he currently trailed Obama. All of them said they wanted to see the GOP nominee come out swinging versus the president.
“I don’t think he has been tough enough,” said Caroline Peale, who attended Ann Romney’s event on Tuesday afternoon in Littleton. “He has so much ammunition. He doesn’t use it!”
Peggy Fulster, a self-described independent voter who decided for Romney in recent months, said: “I believe he's behind, but I think he can make up ground. I think a lot of people are sitting on the sidelines to see what happens in the debates.”
The risk for Romney could involve seeming too aggressive; he must straddle a delicate dividing line between criticizing the president and seeming petulant in a way that could turn off many swing voters.
Obama is sure to play defense at moments of the debate, which will be moderated by Jim Lehrer of PBS. But the debate format is largely open-ended in a way that could maximize interactions between the candidates. As a result of a coin toss, Obama will deliver the first opening statement and Romney will give the final remarks of the evening.
The president’s campaign has sought to play down expectations for Obama, emphasizing that the president hasn’t debated since the 2008 general election. Obama spent much of the past weekend and the first half of this week practicing for tonight’s matchup, huddling in Henderson, Nev., with senior staff and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee who is playing the role of Romney in mock debates.
Obama, speaking a few days ago in Las Vegas, framed the debate as an opportunity to engage with Romney on issues of substance, playing down expectations and dismissing the notion of debate winners and losers.
“Gov. Romney, he's a good debater. I'm just OK,” the president said. “But what I'm most concerned about is having a serious discussion about what we need to do to keep the country growing and restore security for hardworking Americans. That's what people are going to be listening for. That's the debate that you deserve.”
Much of Obama’s campaign has focused on illustrating the differences between the two men, rather than embracing the model of an election that is effectively an up-or-down referendum on the president’s first term.
This evening, Obama is likely to continue in that vein, and has ample ammunition of his own to go after Romney. The Democrat’s campaign has turned Romney’s “47 percent” video into the subject of attack lines, and the president invokes Romney’s own low effective tax rate as evidence for why taxes should be reformed such that the wealthy pay a higher share of taxes.
One difficulty for both candidates involves letting the other's attacks get to them.
"I could see both men bristling a little bit at a comment the other one might make," said Udall. "There are times where you feel no good deed goes unpunished, and you want to at least push back – if not punch back – and set the record straight. I think there's a way to modulate it ... You respond with a punch, but it's got to be a clean, above board punch that's appropriate for that setting."
Like Obama, Romney has spent a considerable amount of time preparing for these attacks and downplaying expectations. Romney’s team has pointed out that, despite the numerous primary debates earlier this cycle, the Republican presidential nominee hasn’t faced a Democratic opponent in about a decade, when he first ran for governor of Massachusetts.
“There’s going to be all the scoring of winning and losing, and you know, in my view, it’s not so much winning and losing or even the people themselves,” Romney said at a rally Monday evening in the Denver area.
Romney added: “I look forward to these debates. I’m delighted that we’re going to have three debates. It’ll be a conversation with the American people that will span almost an entire month.”
Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, a veteran of debate preparations for past Republican nominees, has taken the lead on playing Obama in practice sessions versus Romney. Portman traveled with Romney to Denver, and the two of them mostly worked privately on Tuesday in anticipation of tonight’s debate.
Would-be first lady Ann Romney pronounced her husband “excited” and “focused” in a rally Tuesday afternoon.
But whether there are that many undecided voters remaining on the sideline is another question. The challenge – for both candidates – could end up involving the number of voters who appear to have already determined their vote, making it more difficult than usual for either Romney or Obama to sway voters with a strong debate performance.
Tuesday’s NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that most voters, 60 percent, called the debate either "just somewhat important" or "not at all important."
40 minutes into this and they are both holding their own. So far both seem to be actually directly answering questions which is nice. I tell ya though, is it ever clear how different their philosophies are. If they both keep going like this, I would bet some of the undecided come out in favor of one or the other. It's good so far.
Not at all..Romney is getting spanked. He's not speaking facts and numbers. I know that's what I want to hear..Romney is not answering the HOW and the SPECIFICS. I still don't know his plans..I was nervous in the beginning but I am no longer nervous. I am proud of our President. He's doing a damn good job and I'm sure after tonight's debate, the American people will be clear on who they are voting for.
Lol, funny how the two of us can watch the same thing and see it differently. I suppose that is probably true of most isn't it.
You really think he's getting spanked? I would say the only area he was weak was in not being able to be specific about what tax loopholes he would close and what he would replace the Presidents health care plan with.
I agree with being proud of your President though. He is doing a great job and he comes across as far more sincere then Romney, but then again, I just like the man better. Still, if I stay completely objective (trying to..ha), I still think they are pretty even. It's a good debate I think. There hasn't been as much attacking as I've seen in other political debates...I like that.
Lol...I know right!...Romney hasn't been specific on anything. What loop holes is he closing? what is he replacing Obamacare with?, what is his plan to cut the deficit? Did he answer those for you? If so can you tell me what he said cus I missed it.
I was just thinking how awesome Romney is doing. Really, I just sent an email to my husband that is out of town that he is really doing a great job in the debate. LOL
I guess our own bias will come into play as to how we interpret things. I will tell you this ... I was worried that I wouldn't like what Romney was going to say. I'll admit it. And
I do in all honesty. I feel good about him.
My husband is now back on the Romney bandwagon too. He and I are sort of bickering (in a fun way) over who won. Of course, if we were American my husband would be one of those silly Republicans and I would be one of those dumb Democrats. It's amazing we stay married..lol. Anyway, it's making for interesting discussion in our house right now...that's why I'm typing here...I'm tuning him out. hehe.
Well, I am going to say I think Romney has done the best job I have ever seen in a debate of pointing out where he thinks Obama went wrong without coming across as attacking. They really have both been total gentlemen in this, and that is nice to see. It makes me respect them both that much more.
I was pretty turned off Romney after that whole 47% issue. I am back to being ok with him now. Still don't think I would vote for him, but I like him better then I did yesterday.
I do think Obama has been more specific if I think about it. But it wasn't glaring in the debate, know what I mean?
Still don't think I could really call a winner here, at least not in my opinion (but don't tell my husband, I'm enjoying the argument..ha)
Oh my!! I just heard CNN say that they thought Romney had a good night and held his own!!! CNN and I agree on Romney. (miracle)
I do hate how they try to see who 'won' as that isn't what it is about to me. I liked what Romney said. I feel very good about casting my vote and wish the election were tomorrow for Mitt. (as he has SO much time to blow it . . .)
I'm watching CNN right now and they are actually all pretty much saying Romney did well. They said the President came across as a bit listless and Romney gave the best debate he has so far.
I agree...winning and losing isn't really the point is it. I still think they both made some good points. Hmm...maybe I've gone from true blue to a flip flopper...or did I evolve...it's all so confusing.....ha.
Seriously, wouldn't it be nice if whomever won really truly did work with the other side? And the other side in turn worked with the President? Both parties truly do have some good ideas. I still think that would be what truly would turn things around, in fact I think it's the only way.
People are complaining that Obama wasn't aggressive enough...He's not an aggressive person. When it comes to facts and plans and specifics, the President got it. When it comes to dominance and taking control of the debate time, Romney got it!
What is funny that they just gave the woman that works on the campaign with Obama---- whew, she's about as mad that Romney did so well as Romney. Actually------ the said the minutes Mrsprincince and OBAMA took more minutes. but it is the reverse as you remember Romney talking more, he dominated. (conjecture on my part but they did report the actual minutes and Obama spoke longer.)
She wasn't referring to Romney taking more or less time, she said "take control of the debate time" It had to do with his more assertive demeanor.
I am actually happy that Romney looked good. The poor guy was such a loser, I really felt sorry for him. Glad to see he could put on a good show and look so compelling.
That's nice for the media, but really it takes a real man to do the job and Obama has alot more content that ol Romney. (By the way by "best man" I don't mean to be gender specific, but it just didn't hang right as " the right human"
Well, whatever happens in November, I was feeling semi luckwarm, disheartened about Romney before tonight and now I am just fine with him. I don't expect Democrats to have changed their mind that they are going to vote for Romney. But the undecided may like what they saw and heard. I don't know. But it is okay for Republicans to feel good for one night, isn't it?
next debate, Obama will have a smile plastered on his face, no doubt, after all of tonight's criticism.
Of course. Gosh, I almost caught myself saying some of my best friends are Republicans. :-)
Seriously, I am surprised at myself for getting caught up in this contentiousness and actually being part of it. My apologies to you for going there. Most of the conservative people I know, are nothing like the 'tea party forces' that seem to be dominating the party and focusing such negativity on the President.
Anyway,my focus is more on what brings us together not what divides us and I have decided that if I cannot stay in that mindset, I am going to stay out of this mess. Otherwise I am just another "nattering nabob of negativism", to quote a not so popular former Republican...(Guess?)
Good night all and may goodwill carry us all forward.
I will put the subject of facts aside and not address those at this point. With those put aside, I feel like Obama was almost absent from the debates. I was disappointed in all that was left out of the debate and I would look for this to close the gap in the polls. I remember thinking at one point that Romney acted like he was almost manic, hi on something which was strange. Obama definately lost the first round.
Why is everyone so surprised at the Presidents demeanor. He is not an aggressive person. He was the same way in the 2008 debates and guess what people, HE WON. I agree he should've brought up the 47% and boxed Romney in and there were some missed opportunities to make Romney look like a fool but he didn't. Let's not forget, Romney shot himself in the foot with some of the things that came out of his mouth so it remains to see what the effects of last night will really be..There are still 2 more debates to go. I don't think last night will be the end all for the President. Romney will get a bump in the polls but that's it....Romney only won stylistically. He was the aggressor which he needed to be...He didn't win with substance. I'm not worried at all. at the end of the day I still go back to What loop holes is Romney closing? what is he replacing Obamacare with?, what is his plan to cut the deficit? Did he answer those for you? If so can you tell me what he said cus I missed it.
It seems like no one else here got that from Mitt either otherwise I'd be getting some answers....I hope the American people are smart enough to see through all the smoke and focus on the real importance of this election. The President has a plan, he articulated his plan, Romney does NOT have a plan, I did not hear one. How is he going to cut the deficit, how is he going to create theses jobs he was talking about? SPECIFICS AND NUMBERS, that's what I'm interested in and I would assume that's what the American people are interested in.
I agree about the mod. And I thought Mitt was rude, breaking every rule and making his own and got away with it. But he told lie after lie after lie and got away with it hook line and sinker. Obama didn't seem to know what to make of it all, he was not in his best form. But I bet he will be in the next one. In the meantime Romeny gave lots of ad material showing the flips and the flops as recently as a week ago. Stay tuned, this race is far from over.
Yes he did win stylistically. He was all steam no substance...Again, What loop holes is Romney closing? what is he replacing Obamacare with?, what is his plan to cut the deficit? Did he answer those for you? If so can you tell me what he said cus I missed it.
That is VERY sad if that is how you feel. You in a sense saying, Mitt doesn't need a plan for the country, as long as he's lying and aggressive to the President, he gets your vote!...I've been watching all the media outlets all day and you know what, I am very disappointed in how we as a people are thinking. How can not having a plan be a good thing. His behavior pretty much trumped him having a direct and clear path for the country. We the people are the ones that are going to be effected by their policies. I personally don't want to be screwed because I am the middle class. No government help, pay my taxes, work VERY VERY hard for everything I have. 2 more debates to go and I've said it before OBAMA WILL WIN
"I've been watching all the media outlets all day and you know what, I am very disappointed in how we as a people are thinking. How can not having a plan be a good thing. His behavior pretty much trumped him having a direct and clear path for the country."
Just my take on things-As politicians go, Obama is not a performer. He is serious and sincere. He has had to jump through all kinds of hoops to get anything done the past four years And now, what he is trying to do for this country is being overshadowed by showmanship. It is very sad.However, in the end I hope that the voters will see that a dazzling performance is just that and won't be swayed by theatrics.
Honestly, I think what your hearing is the way the debate was handled by the individual candidates. They are not judging so much the truth and substance but more the pomp and circumstance of it all. No one that was voting for Obama is going to turn away and nor are the ones that decided to vote for Romney, I am listening to Obama right now at one of his rallies in colorado and he is addressing last nights lies to the audience.
The debate for Romney was a performance and he performed better than anyone expected and Obama performed worse than was expected.
Did it change the vote? No I dont think so, if anything it awoke Obamas base and pssd them off. All it did was ensure Mitt gets money from his backers and they will no longer threaten to back off. Thats all. All the distortions and lies cannot be erased in a 90 min debate.....keep the faith.
Romney did much better than I anticipated or I think anyone anticipated. I will vote for him now with confidence that he'll lead our country.
This is an election. No one here would say 'way to go Romney" when they already know they are voting for Obama. We don't really matter here. Pretty much all but one person I can think of has declared where they stand in one way or another---- it's all those people that were on the fence. That is who these debates are really for.
So, I expected absolutely nothing less than what is written here today by Obama supporters.
This will be a long month and I'm sure there will be ups and downs for both sides along the way. Who knows how it will fully turn out the night of the election. I didn't think Romney has much of a chance and it is still a long shot but at least there is hope.
Not sour at all.. For me it boils down to who has a clear direction and plan that will move the country forward...I didn't get that from Romney..could the president have been more forceful YES, did he miss more than one opportunity, YES..Will this effect him in his re-election, IMO, NO!..Romney has no substance, no plan, and is not looking out for the middle class.
Ha, I sure do cherish it. I'm not saying he is going to win the election. A lot can happen. I personally still think it is doubtful that he will win. But none the less, I really did like what I heard last night.
Obama did not win the first election by a landslide. His policies and ideas are supported by only half the country. So, yeah. There are a lot of people cheering Romney on.
Yeah, dead heat till you start dissecting it all. 19 points ahead on the women vote, seniors leaning his way. 50 points ahead with Latinos. In the swing states for that matter. But one thing is for sure, someone will win and someone will lose.... The fat lady has not yet yodeled... LOL Aint this fun!
I agree. It is almost venemous at this point with something akin to hate on the other side. I don't hate Obama. Seems like a cool guy really. I'm just of a different mind set than he is. But there is so much venom on both sides that it is not only frightening but a little scary. *not directed to friends here. Talking in general with the state of politics currently.
I think once the election is over, things will calm down. I know as much as I am passionate about my guy winning, I will abide by and respect the peoples choice, even if I don't agree with it and I hope I can speak for all of us here on CE.
I mean really, lots of what we do here is merely gnashing of teeth! LOL
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