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The Prospect's politics blog

The Town Hall Debate: A Binder of GIFs

Why does the Republican always win the coin toss? Mitt promises a job to a soon-to-be-college-grad. Mitt says that Obama bankrupted the auto industry. Obama decides to show up this time. The candidates both love "clean" coal. Mitt makes "middle-class tax cuts" sound better than Obama does. Obama tries to parse Mitt's deficit math. Apparently, our economy is on "the road to Greece"? Obama on the way back to his stool: Mitt's "binders full of women": Every woman watching: Mitt says the time-keepers are broken. Candy shuts him down. Mitt says "every woman in America should have access to contraceptives." OMG CHINA IS SO SCARY. Mitt refers to "undocumented illegals." But Obama also says he's into deportation. Obama owns his answer about recent terrorism in Libya ... ... and Candy's fact-check backs him up. Obama calls for a comprehensive gun-control strategy. Mitt's answer to gun violence: marriage. Obama to Romney: .

Stop Gun Violence: Get Married

Anthony Behar/Sipa USA (Sipa via AP Images)
During tonight's second presidential debate, when asked what he would do to limit the availability of assault rifles and stem gun violence, Mitt Romney said he would “change the culture of violence.” How would he do that, you wonder? We need moms and dads helping raise kids. Wherever possible, the — the benefit of having two parents in the home — and that's not always possible. A lot of great single moms, single dads. But gosh, to tell our kids that before they have babies, they ought to think about getting married to someone — that's a great idea because if there's a two-parent family, the prospect of living in poverty goes down dramatically. The opportunities that the child will — will be able to achieve increase dramatically. So we can make changes in the way our culture works to help bring people away from violence and give them opportunity and bring them in the American system. Of course, gun violence does not correlate with marriage rates. Via Andrew Seaman at Reuters, Matthew...

Game, Set, Obama

(AP Photo/David Goldman) President Barack Obama laughs as he talks with audience members after the second presidential debate at Hofstra University. President Obama did what he needed to do tonight. He took the debate to Mitt Romney. He was relaxed, even jaunty, as he scored one point after another. He seemed to be enjoying himself at Romney’s expense. He looked more comfortable and commanding as the debate wore on, while Romney looked more stiff, edgy, and salesman-like. Obama needed to remind voters that Romney is a very rich man out of touch with regular people, and he did that well. He got in Romney’s face and he got under his skin, but stopped just short of being overly aggressive. You could tell right from the beginning that this was a very different Obama. When Romney touted his five-point plan to fix the economy, Obama responded scornfully, “Governor Romney doesn’t have a five-point plan, he has a one-point plan” and that plan is more tax breaks for the very rich who are...

Advantage Mitt?

Everyone knows that Mitt Romney is stiff and awkward, which is why everyone also knows that he’ll do poorly at tonight’s town hall debate. Of the two candidates, Barack Obama is supposed to be the one who is friendly and personable with ordinary people. Even with his poor performance two weeks ago, the assumption is that Obama will benefit from the change in format. But will he? The fact is that there are serious pitfalls for the president tonight. The first, of course, is that if he doesn’t do well, he'll give Romney a chance to solidify his gains with another solid win. There’s also the chance that he overcompensates for his initial loss, and is too aggressive against the Republican nominee. In which case, he comes across as unpresidential—and a little bit desperate. Romney, on the other hand, doesn’t need to do much to come out ahead. He's already proven that he can go head-to-head with Obama; tonight's task is to show that he can “connect” with voters in a way that’s escaped him...

Bums on the Bus

Courtesy Faith in Public Life
Yesterday, the Nuns On the Bus—the summer’s most devout media darlings, who gained notoriety for their two-week, nine-state bus tour to protest Congressman Paul Ryan’s proposed budget plan—got a rude surprise in Marietta, Ohio. In the midst of a five-day bus tour of the state to protest proposed cuts to social services, the sisters were greeted by a group of Romney-Ryan supporters toting signs with slogans proclaiming, “Bums on the Bus: You Are Not Catholic,” and “Romney/Ryan, Yes; Fake Nuns, No,” ostensibly taking issue with the nuns’ focus on affordable healthcare and income inequality instead of pro-life issues. Sister Monica McGloin (who is pro-life), a Dominican Sister of Hope from Cincinnati participating in the bus tour, had this to say on-site in response to the protestors: Pro-life for us means that we do concern ourselves with living wage, just wage, access to healthcare, education, food, housing, care for our seniors, Medicare and other kinds of healthcare programs that are...

Marry Me in Maryland?

(Flickr/mdfriendofhillary)
(Flickr/friendofhillary) In all probability, Marylanders for Marriage Equality will be disappointed by November 6th's referendum results. This fall, opponents of marriage equality will lose a much-beloved talking point: that in every state in which same-sex marriage has gone on the ballot, voters have rejected it. On November 6, the freedom to marry someone of the same sex is up for a vote in four states: Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington. Each state's initiative and situation is quite different, but in at least one (Maine), and possibly three (Maine, Maryland, and Washington), voters are going to offer marriage licenses to their lesbian and gay neighbors. Let's start by looking at Maryland. The backstory: In February, the Maryland legislature passed, and on March 1, Governor Martin O'Malley enthusiastically signed, a marriage-equality law. Named in jujitsu fashion, "The Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act" explicitly addressed the canard that allowing civil...

In Defense of Paul Ryan's Fake Dishwashing

(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer) Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan and his wife Janna wash pots at St. Vincent DePaul dining hall, Saturday, October 13, 2012 in Youngstown, Ohio. In case you haven't heard the story, the other day Paul Ryan's team thought it would be a good idea to show his compassionate side, so they had him show up at a soup kitchen in Youngstown, Ohio to help out. The only problem was that lunch had already been served, the patrons were all gone, and everything had been cleaned up. Undeterred, Ryan and his wife donned aprons and proceeded to wash pots for the cameras, despite the fact that the pots they were washing appeared to have already been washed . The head of the charity that runs the soup kitchen was a bit perturbed about the whole thing, saying later, "Had they asked for permission, it wouldn't have been granted. … But I certainly wouldn't have let him wash clean pans, and then take a picture." Yes, this came in for plenty of ridicule. But let me...

Obama's Town Hall To-Do List

Here’s what President Obama needs to do tonight: Show leadership, resolve, and toughness Directly call Romney on his evasions and deceptions Demolish several of Romney’s outright lies Not pass up several opportunities to make points, as he did in the first debate Not make any major mistakes Take advantage of any Romney blunders Specifically: Refute Romney's claims that the Benghazi attack was Obama’s failure, and shame Romney for trying to make political hay of it Destroy Romney’s credibility on the budget, tax cuts for the wealthy, and Social Security Press Romney directly on which tax loopholes he’d close Remind voters that Romney is an out-of-touch rich guy, whose new-found identification with regular working people is a sham Associate Romney with Republican blockage of Obama’s efforts to promote a stronger economic recovery Push Romney hard on issues where he has changed his position or denies his real current position, such as abortion rights Demolish Republican talking points...

What Does Obama Need to Do Tonight? Defend His Record.

(Jamelle Bouie)
Ahead of tonight’s town hall debate, the Obama campaign has released a direct-to-camera video featuring Bill Clinton, who—as president—thrived in town hall-style environments. The video, which is meant to clarify the issues around Mitt Romney’s tax plan, is a partial restatement of Clinton’s acclaimed speech at the Democratic National Convention. Take a look: I get the reasoning behind this video: to remind voters of Mitt Romney’s absolute commitment to the interests of the wealthy, and to call to mind the last round of upper-income tax cuts, which did little to boost economic growth but insured a decade of gains for the richest Americans. Still, I think it’s a mistake. The genius of Mitt Romney’s vague tax plan is that it allows him to mount any defense that sounds plausible. Indeed, if there is anything Romney is ready for, it’s attacks on his tax proposals. And as we saw in the last presidential debate, he’s adept at twisting any criticism into an opportunity to extol the claimed...

All Due Respect

Find out what it means to me.
As I was going through old presidential debates in writing this piece , I came across a moment in the 2004 town hall debate in which John Kerry got asked by a woman in the audience what he would tell someone who thought abortion was murder and wanted reassurance that their tax money wouldn't be going to abortion. He began his answer in the way we have come to expect Democratic politicians to: "First of all, I cannot tell you how deeply I respect the belief about life and when it begins." He then went on to explain how he was an altar boy, religion is very important to him, but he won't impose his personal beliefs on others. At the end of it, he wrapped up with a discussion of the importance of family planning, and said, "You'll actually do a better job, I think, of passing on the moral responsibility that is expressed in your question. And I truly respect it." Which got me thinking: When was the last time you heard a Republican express their deep, deep respect for the moral...

Obama and the Vision Thing

President Obama’s first challenge in tomorrow night’s town hall debate has been crystal clear ever since he allowed Mitt Romney to Etch A Sketch his way through their first encounter: Follow Joe Biden’s lead by calling out Romney on his inconsistencies and lies, while highlighting the radicalism of the Republicans’ real agenda. The Prospect ’s Paul Waldman offers some sage advice : “He needs a single phrase that he will repeat every time he's refuting a Romney falsehood. It could be something slogan-y, like ‘That's another Romney Reinvention,’ or could be something simple, like ‘Once again, Governor Romney thinks he can fool you and get away with it.’ It almost doesn't matter what it is, so long as he repeats it every time.” But there’s another, broader challenge for Obama—and it’s one that relates to the central flaw of the president’s entire campaign. While some voters understand what will be lost if Romney wins (Medicaid, Medicare, health-care reform, sane foreign policy, the list...

Five Fool-Proof Tips for Winning a Town Hall Debate

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
(AP Photo/Joe Marquette, File) In this October 15, 1992 file photo, Moderator Carole Simpson, background center, presides over the Presidential debate between, from left, Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton, Independent candidate Ross Perot, center, and Republican candidate, President George H.W. Bush, at the University of Richmond, Virginia. The every-four-years ritual of a national "town hall" style debate began as a nerve-racking experiment in live television. Simpson was so nervous about turning over the microphone to regular folks and their questions that she spent days mapping out the presidential candidates and their issues on "a zillion 3-by-5 cards," in case she had to take over the questioning herself. T uesday night, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will meet in a "town hall" debate, which doesn't actually much resemble a town hall, but does provide an opportunity for ordinary voters to ask the candidates questions. So does this kind of forum actually give us any...

Let's Talk about Climate, Mr. President

(PRNewsFoto/American Electric Power)
(AP Photo/David J. Phillip) Drought-stricken corn crops bake in the sun as temperatures continue to hover around 100 degrees Monday, July 25, 2011, in Tomball, Texas. Very little rain has fallen across the state this year. About 70 percent of Texas rangeland and pastures are classified as in very poor condition, which means there has been complete or near complete crop failure or there’s no food for grazing livestock. T he night of the first presidential debate, I showed up at a watching party unusually sweaty. It was a heavy, humid night in New York City—too hot for October, reminiscent of an evening in late June. I know that weather’s not climate , but I couldn’t help wondering: without climate change, how likely could it be that a night a few weeks into the fall would feel like this one? Was I experiencing the creep of days hotter than they should be, nights that just won’t cool down? Most Americans, it turns out, are asking themselves similar questions. The latest research from...

Medicaid Is the Real Target

Since August, when Mitt Romney chose Paul Ryan as his running mate, the two campaigns have fought a fierce battle over who is the most stalwart protector of Medicare. In the first presidential debate, Romney assailed President Obama for his $716 billion in Medicare cuts, and Ryan did the same in last week’s vice presidential face-off. Likewise, the Obama campaign has hit Team Romney for the Ryan plan and its Medicare “premium support”—which, if implemented, would gradually replace traditional Medicare with subsidized, regulated private insurance. The irony is that—in the short term, at least—Medicare will stay unchanged, regardless of who wins the election. Seniors are among the most mobilized voters in the electorate, and there’s too much political risk involved in making big, immediate changes to Medicare. For that reason, Medicare reform plans on both sides are backloaded and will take time to unfold. The same isn’t true of Medicaid, the other major federal health-care program. The...

(Fiscal) Cliffs Notes

(Flickr/Matthew Wilkinson)
The most bizarre thing about the deficit and the campaign is the fact that the risk of a fiscal cliff—which everyone agrees will crash the economy—is being used to justify a slightly smaller fiscal cliff. There are several players here, so the arguments are worth sorting out. Herewith, some Cliffs Notes: What is the fiscal cliff? It comes in three parts. On January 1, the Bush tax cuts expire. This means that in the first pay period of the new year, more taxes are taken out of everyone’s withholding. Second, the temporary two-point cuts in payroll taxes expire too, so everyone’s Social Security and Medicare taxes go up as well. Third, the dreaded “sequester” of automatic budget cuts, the toxic fruit of the Republican blockade of a normal budget deal back in 2011, kick in. Oh, and extended unemployment benefits expire, too. What would all this fiscal tightening do to the recovery? It would create a new recession, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), Fed Chairman Ben...

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