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Live Blog: Obama & Romney’s First Debate

Filed by KOSU News in Politics.
October 3, 2012

President Obama and his Republican challenger, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, face each other tonight in the first of three scheduled presidential debates. It marks the first time voters will see the two men side-by-side and could be critical in determining who wins the White House on Nov. 6.

We’ll be live blogging as they take questions from moderator Jim Lehrer (PBS-TV’s NewsHour) at the University of Denver. The debate is set to start at 9 p.m. ET and last 90 minutes. Afterward, we’ll sum up what happened and watch for the first wave of post-debate analyses. Hit your refresh button to be sure you’re seeing our latest updates.

If you want to hear NPR’s live coverage of the debate and submit comments to Frank James’ live chat, click here. Twitter users who hear things they think the candidates got wrong can tweet their proof to @acarvin.

Update at 8:55 p.m. ET. Lehrer Tells Audience To “Sit On It!”:

Adding to the earlier warning about not making noise during the debate, Lehrer just instructed the crowd that “if you hear something that’s really terrific, sit on it! If you hear something you don’t like, sit on it!”

He jokingly asked first lady Michelle Obama and Ann Romney, wife of the GOP nominee, to enforce the rules on each of their sides.

Update at 8:45 p.m. ET. No Cheering, Please, Audience Is Told:

With “50 to 100 million” Americans watching tonight, “it’s wrong for us to intrude on them,” debate commission Co-Chairman Frank Fahrenkopf just told the several thousand people in attendance. “So please, don’t clap, don’t cheer, don’t make any noise.”

He also asked those in the building to turn off their cellphones. “Hopefully, we can live for 90 minutes without these things on,” Fahrenkopf said.

Fahrenkopf is a former chairman of the Republican National Committee. The other commission co-chairman is Mike McCurry, one-time press secretary to Democratic President Bill Clinton.

Update at 8:35 p.m. ET. What Does Each Man Need To Do?

On All Things Considered today, NPR’s Mara Liasson said the conventional wisdom holds that Romney “has the bigger task.” He needs, she said, to “criticize the president without looking too harsh or negative.” And Romney must “show how his economic policies can make people’s lives better in the future.”

One advantage Romney has, Mara said, is that he comes in “as an underdog.” So the expectations are lower for the Republican.

President Obama, she said, must “avoid a mistake … [and] not come off as smug or arrogant or thin-skinned.”

As for how important the debates may be, Mara said it’s “hard to find an example since the Kennedy-Nixon debates” in 1960 when they appeared to significantly affect the outcome of an election . But in a race that’s likely to be “decided by a hair,” said Mara, “little things really do matter” and a good or bad debate performance could be important.

Update at 8:25 p.m. ET: What’s The Format? What Are The Topics? According to the Commission on Presidential Debates, tonight’s debate will be divided into “six segments of approximately 15 minutes each. … The moderator will open each segment with a question, after which each candidate will have two minutes to respond. The moderator will use the balance of the time in the segment for a discussion of the topic.”

A coin toss has determined that President Obama will get the first question. Romney will get the last word before the debate ends.

Domestic policy is the overall topic tonight. Lehrer has announced that he plans to focus on the economy in the first three segments. After that, he plans to move to health care, “the role of government,” and “governing.”

As The Christian Science Monitor notes, in past years “debates have typically had more questions and shorter discussion times. Lehrer, in part, advocated for the new format, and pushed to reduce the number of questions from nine to six, in the hopes that it would encourage more of a television talk-show approach, in which the candidates engage in discussion rather than just deliver talking points.”

The other presidential debates will be on Oct. 16 (a town hall format) and Oct. 22. The one debate between Vice President Biden and his GOP challenger, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, is set for Oct. 11. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]

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