Liveblogging — Joe

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I’ll also be in the comments section at Cover it Live. It was very fast and furious in the comments last week.

Well we’ve come to the end of the presidential debate season. We’ve seen an unmoderated disaster, a fiesty, but focused VP debate, an episode of Jerry Springer masquerading as a “town hall” debate. What will tonight bring?

Bob Schieffer is closer to Jim Lehrer generationally, but he hosts a combative interview show and has no doubt followed the scorn heaped upon Lehrer since his Weekend at Bernie’s moderation of the first debate. There is actually a chance that this debate will demonstrate the promise of a debate format that encourages the moderator to interrogate the candidates. Or maybe we’ll just do shots of bourbon all night while cursing Matt Stafford’s failure to contribute to our fantasy football scores all night.

9:03 Opening with Libya is good for both campaigns. For Obama it gets a possible weak spot out of the way. For Romney it gets any reminder of the disaster from last week out of the way.

9:06 Romney is barely mentioning Libya. That comports with my guess that the campaign views it as a dangerous topic after the last debate.

9:08 Obama is recasting Libya as “what’s the alternative…Qadaffi?”

9:10 Romney is recognizing that Obama was silent on Syria and Mali and Iran and is trying to turn that into proof that Obama has no answers. Obama is going on the offensive instead by dissing the Russia statement.

9:12 “Sending mixed messages.” This comports with my guess for Obama’s strategy for the debate, which is to continually suggest that Romney is an untrustworthy opportunist. A strategy that spills over into domestic policy too.

9:14 I thought Romney was pulling away on some ticky-tack points until Obama shifted to “you have to be clear.” That sounded very presidential. He followed it up with the first real mention of Israel, which blunts a common attack on Obama.

9:16 Schieffer asks much better questions that Lehrer that’s for sure.

9:18 Romney just reaffirmed Obama’s strategy. Schieffer should declare this a non-unique issue and move on. If there’s no controversy it’s not worth wasting time on.

9:20 Romney raises the question of “leadership” a call back to the dumb “leading from behind” trope. And Obama is using it to own the Libyan issue. This is not a campaign afraid of Libya anymore.

9:22 Great follow-up from Schieffer on the no-fly zone. Romney had an opening to distinguish himself there…and deferred.

9:22 Romney thinks we should have taken steps to get opposition forces together. That’s just Obama’s plan exactly. Schieffer should call out agreements like that for the sake of clarity.

9:24 Another great question on Egypt. Obama did a good job taking it to the high road and, as always, reaffirming that he loves him some Israel to fend off the Fox News folks. Romney can fight back with some discussion of the Muslim Brotherhood. We’ll see…

9:26 Dear Gov. Romney: Saying, “I agree with everything Obama did but I wish it had worked better” is not actually an argument in your favor.

9:27 $5 Trillion tax cut in 5…4…3…2…

9:29 Romney answer: “To not apologize…whatever that means.”

9:30 POLAND!!!

9:33 Bush and Cheney were mentioned too. Multiple shots in quick succession.

9:34 If I were Obama I’d make a snide remark about the “5-point plan” as something Romney has memorized but doesn’t understand. The more it gets repeated the worse it sounds.

9:35 The Massachusetts record…not exactly Romney’s strong suit. As an aside from the debate, did anyone here ever believe we’d live to see someone run for president by saying, “please don’t look at my governing experience.”

9:38 Look at our website is his answer to the most pressing follow-up question of the debate? Romney needs a 5-point boilerplate to answer this question more specifically.

9:39 Ezra Klein points out that Romney’s website does not actually explain how to balance the budget.

9:42 This Romney argument that he can balance budgets should be hit with a concerted explanation of how Bain Capital became wealthy almost exclusively by driving up deficits.

9:44 This Navy answer demonstrates a lot of expertise. Fox will play it as though Obama just learned what those just came to his attention.

9:49 Entirely defensive answers from Romney — basically just, “I wouldn’t be much different than Obama on foreign policy.” A massive shift from his Libya comments leading into last week. Probably a smart strategy given that Americans generally trust the President on foreign policy. Given this, Obama needs to make sure the debate is riddled with references to Romney’s past aggressive statements.

9:52 Romney is finally going on the offensive.

9:54 “What Governor Romney just said is not true.” This is going to be a refrain we look back  on when we study this campaign years from now.

9:57 I think Obama should have been more precise in calling out the “we’re 4 years closer” by pointing out that Romney advocating the exact same policy means he can’t criticize the last 4 years. But the answer about the Israel trip is powerful. Still should defend the Arab world trip too though.

10:00 Romney is resorting to the Gish Gallop tactic. That was about 25 blippy swipes at the President in a 20 second span for the sole purpose of stopping Obama from answering all of them. Obama needs to go on offense instead.

10:02 WHOA! Obama decided to Gallop back listing a litany of Romney flip-flops to destroy his credibility. You know it’s working because the camera clicks are going off the charts.

10:04 Bob Schieffer does what no one else has yet — make Romney stop bitching about getting the last word.

10:07 Romney is just abandoning most of his foreign policy critique. Now the withdrawal from Afghanistan by 2014 is a good thing? When did that happen? It’s like the first debate all over again…except Obama is not rattled this time and just keeps pushing back against these flip-flops.

10:15 OK China. This is Romney’s key subject because China bashing is his only hope of getting working class folks in Ohio. Obama has to win this subject and he probably keeps his key firewall state intact.

10:20 Finally back! Had some technical issues there. Romney doesn’t know the difference between a trade war and a trade deficit. Or at least he’s banking on the hope that the American voter doesn’t understand the difference.

10:22 The fact that Romney’s tax plan privileges overseas jobs is not getting enough play from the Obama campaign. Good move bringing it up here.

10:24 Obama got forceful. Romney said there could be federal guarantees, but only after the bankruptcy concluded…when they wouldn’t matter.

10:26 I fear this semantic issue about “federal guarantees” for the auto industry is going to be the Republican talking point that we get bludgeoned with for a week even though Obama and Romney

10:33 Obama delivered a strong statement. Delineates the stark choice. Romney rambled and basically said, “eh…things are pretty good all things considered, but I would be pretty good at this job too.”

10:34 Grandpa Bob tells us to vote.