Update: 7:53 PM
The first presidential debate is making out to be the beginning of one of the most interesting political events of our time. The debate takes place at the University of Denver. It seems appropriate, as we in higher education know that our communities are places of exchange, of words, ideas and rhetoric. The University of Denver is known for the genesis of many political careers for countless representatives and senators. As historical as this debate stage may be, this debate will feature new rules in politics. It has been released that the candidates will likely talk to each other more compared to past debates. The "spin" room, the place where people give their spin on the outcome of the debate, is already hopping with political rhetoricians.
There are also several political rules at work in this election. At this point in the election 80 percent of races are already decided by polls; this means that President Barack Obama will likely win this election. This is called the October rule. However, the unemployment rule is also at work, as no president has ever won an election while unemployment is above 7.2 percent, which would side with Gov. Mitt Romney. There are two main swing states that can also decide an election: Ohio and Missouri. No Republican has won the presidency without winning Ohio first, and with recent polls it seems as though Romney will lose this election based on this rule. Missouri is notorious for predicting elections, yet this was broken when Obama won in 2008 when Missouri was won by Sen. John McCain. These rules point toward a chaotic political environment right now, one that will be altered by the debate we are about to witness.
The first question: What is your plan to create jobs and how does it differ from your opponent's?
Obama was selected via coin toss to start, and he started out mentioning his anniversary with his wife, Michelle. He went over major sectors to the economy, including housing and public-sector jobs. He pointed out that Romney would initiate a top-down economic "trickle-down" plan.
Romney laid out a five-part plan, covering: 1) energy independence 2) increasing commerce, including in Latin America, and calling out China 3) promoting education and domestic labor skills 4) creating a balanced budget and 5) focusing on small business. He rejected Obama's trickle-down accusation.
Update: 8:14 PM
Obama was initially put on the defensive as Romney opened up with this rather detailed plan, especially for Republicans, who have been lacking explicit details, especially in regard to their economic plans.
When asked to ask Obama a question, he instead went to attack the president on his remarks on Romney's economic plan, which has been brought out within the first 10 minutes. In regard to issues, this seems to be one of the more efficient debates in recent memory.
The main issue became taxes.
Update: 8:22 PM
Obama responded to Romney's "question" on taxes by focusing on the middle class, putting Romney on the defensive. Romney vowed not to raise taxes, especially in regard to the wealthy and middle class. As Romney outlined his tax plan in more detail — seeming more nervous, even interrupting the mediator — he focused on "lower rates," though not going in to specifics on these rates. The next talking point seems to be small business, as the definition of small business, according to Obama, can include Donald Trump, with a quick jab to the notorious billionaire.
After Romney's response, Obama pointed out the ridiculousness of Romney's plan, citing "math, the economy and history." It seems as though Romney hasn't changed the ideal nature of his economic plan since last month.
The second topic: What are the differences in how you go about tackling debt?
Romney believes that focusing on posterity is the way we tackle debt. Also, he is awkward: he likes Big Bird, PBS — oh, and the mediator — though not enough to give them subsidies.
Update: 8:36 PM
Obama responded — going well over the time limit — by outlining cuts to government spending. He specifically mentioned 77 programs cut, medical fraud within Medicare and Medicaid, a $1 trillion cut from discretionary domestic spending and a $4 trillion deficit plan. Finally, Obama will have $2.50 in tax cuts for every $1 in revenue.
Romney specifically mentioned that taxes should not be increased, citing an estimated 700,000 jobs to be lost under Obama's deficit plan.
Update: 8:44 PM
Romney: "You don't pick the winners and the losers ... you pick the losers!"
Obama strategically brought up overseas jobs, perhaps alluding to Romney's business history, in regard to his overseas finances and personal experience with Bain & Company, of which Romney was CEO.
The third main topic became Social Security, though Obama seems to want to talk about Medicare, which has been a highly polarizing topic for Democrats to defend and for Republicans to change. Romney strategically said "Obamacare," the infamous plan that was actually based of the Massachusetts model that Romney planned as governor of the state.
Update: 8:51 PM
I'm glad Obama is OK with the colloquialism "Obamacare." Health care has been one of the biggest topics in politics today. Despite the similar history of Romney and Obama, it seems as though there is a wide range of opinion within this debate, which is a result of focusing on small details of Medicare and Medicaid rather than talking about insurance. Strategically, Obama brought up insurance, one of his strongest topics, also, attacking the historically senior Republican vote, in regard to the AARP attack on Romney's move to cut welfare programs to seniors.
Update: 8:59 PM
The next topic turns to regulation and banks.
Both candidates largely agreed that the actions surrounding Dodd-Frank were innappropriate — the mediator switched topics quickly, as it seemed both candidates were in agreement.
The next topic turns back to health care, in respect to Obamacare.
Obama set Romney on the defensive right away, going over his time, while he dominated the amount of time candidates get to speak, reaching one minute more than Romney at this point, by comparing Obamacare to the Massachusetts health care plan under Romney.
Romney, on the topic of the similarities between the two plans, focused instead on Obamacare as a partisan plan, rather than details of health care, which was actually drafted from ideas from Republicans. Unsurprisingly, it seems as though political rhetoric is being used as an artificial distance between the two candidates. Obamacare has also not been implemented, so details based on empirical stastics or situations aren't available.
Romney, in his plan, would cover pre-existing conditions and help young students use their parents' insurance plan. The one difference between the two candidates on health care is this "board" that would "decide treatments" for patients.
Jim Lehrer, the mediator of the debate, seems to be unable to take control of the candidates, as each speech goes over time.
The debate has now segued to the topic of the role of government with the question: Do you believe there is a fundamental difference in the way you view the mission of goverment?
Update: 9:18 PM
The last question was: As president, what would you do about partisan gridlock?
Romney's key lines were that 1) he will not cut military spending and 2) religious tolerance is one thing that the government needs to make a priority.
Update: 9:38 PM
The debate ended with a strong closing statement from both candidates, though as Romney ended the debate Obama had the floor more than 4 minutes longer than his opponent. Romney had a surprisingly good showing at this debate, starting out strong and fast with his five-step economic plan and attacking Obama at the get-go with his views on health care and Medicaid. The economy was the big issue here, and it seemed as though both candidates held their own. Of any debate in recent memory, both candidates had clearly outlined plans, used empirical examples and had a range of knowledge of details of different plans. Though political rhetoric plagues these sorts of political events, we have clearly seen a development of Romney as a more personable candidate, hardened by primary debates and a use of tag words, and an incumbent who lends himself to staying safe while he enjoys a slight lead in the polls.
We'll see how the vice presidential debate will turn out with the two, and as I would say, slightly mysterious and unknown political figures Joe Biden and Paul Ryan.