7:57 p.m. Michele Bachmann is running the same ads she ran against Tarryl Clark against Jim Graves. Probably saves on pre-production costs. Benster says he might have some post-debate comments. He hasn't offered a pointspread, though.
8 p.m. We're about to begin. Jim Lehrer is at the helm, so this should be earnest. Here he comes.
8:02 p.m. Lehrer announces that he has made the decisions on which questions get asked. And he wants no noises from the audience. Here they come. Obama has a blue/purple tie, while Romney is out in his 1987 power tie getup.
8:04 p.m. First question is about jobs. How does the president or Romney create jobs. Obama begins and starts with a shout-out to his wife, since it's their anniversary. Obama is now using the same narrative he's always used. Here come the strawmen -- invest in energy (but not coal, of course) and reduce deficits in a "balanced" way. Same crap we've heard before. Still blaming George Bush. Breaks out the "economic patriotism." Hate that.
8:06 p.m. Romney starts with the travelogue. He's been to Dayton and Denver. Can he help, the people ask. Whacks the strawmen. Now he comes down to the five point plan. We've heard this before too. Emphasis is on small business -- Romney "knows what it takes." Now he says "trickle down government."
8:09 p.m. Lehrer asks Obama about "trickle-down government." Obama starts rattling off the programs. Guess Romney was right. Obama wants to lower the corporate tax rate? He could have done that already, wonder why he hasn't? Still pushing the wind and solar and biofuels. This should give Romney a Solyndra opening.
8:11 p.m. Lehrer asks Romney about Obama's claims. Romney says he won't lower taxes on the rich. Talks about the crushing effect of costs -- gas, health care, etc. Middle income families are getting crushed. Education is key, Romney says. Talks about 47 different federal programs -- wants to send the money to the states. Lots of hand gestures, pushing things down. Split screen shows Obama smirking. Romney likes coal. More crushing, Romney says. No tax cut that adds to the deficit -- wants to reduce the burden on middle class. I'd like to know how.
8:14 p.m. Obama says he cut middle class taxes by $3600 per family. Not so far as I could tell. That payroll tax cut is going away, by the way. Obama doubles down on his earlier claim. $5 trillion in tax cuts. Says it's not possible. This will be a fact checkers festival, if they choose to. Going back to the "top down" rhetoric.
8:16 p.m. Romney says virtually everything Obama said is inaccurate. Romney doubles down. Compares Obama and Biden to his five sons, who told stories that weren't true when they were kids, apparently. Obama didn't like that. Now Romney's talking about small businesses.
8:19 p.m. Obama says Romney's bold new plan is "never mind." Obama says he lowered taxes on small businesses 18 times. But still wants tax increases on incomes over $250,000. That money could go to employees, or to Obama. Well, government employees need to be paid, I suppose. Says "Donald Trump is a small business." Obama warns of drastic cuts.
8:21 p.m. Lehrer wants to start the next segment. But he lets Romney finish. Points out that a businessman already pays an effective rate of 50%. Says Obama's plan will eliminate 700,000 jobs. Another number for the fact-checkers.
8:23 p.m. Obama still insists that Romney wants a $5 trillion tax cut. Either it's true, or it isn't. Says "math, common sense and history" dictate otherwise. By the way, how may trillion has been added to the national debt since 2009? He also wraps himself in Bill Clinton.
8:25 p.m. Romney says it's still not his plan. Jim Lehrer has lost control, by the way. Romney now goes to the last four years. 23 million out of work. 47 million on food stamps now. 47 -- where have I heard this before.
8:26 p.m. Lehrer now talks about federal debt. What are the differences on tackling the deficit.
8:28 p.m. Romney says it's a moral issue, not leaving debt to our children. Benster, watching with me, says "thank you." Romney talks about cutting. He'll cut Obamacare and PBS. Fearless Maria, also watching, wonders about cutting Big Bird. Now he discusses the huge debt Obama had.
8:28 p.m. Obama blames Bush again. Last I checked, Bush is somewhere in Texas. Obama claims he's cut 77 government programs. Went after medical fraud. Saved $50 billion in waste. Cut $1 trilllion out of budget. Well, that's easy when you raise the budget by $2 billion. Obama has a website. Mentions Bowles-Simpson. We'll hear more about this, I imagine. Obama is now officially filibustering -- blew past the two minute limit, daring Lehrer to stop.
8:31 p.m. Lehrer asks about Simpson-Bowles. Romney suggests Obama should have taken it up. Obama interrupts him. Romney explains why you shouldn't raise taxes. Suggests that more than just Donald Trump will get taxed more.
8:33 p.m. Lehrer tries to regain control. Not gonna happen. Now Romney is filibustering. Compares us to Spain. Well, I've never been to Spain, but I kinda like the music.
8:34 p.m. Obama is now bashing the oil companies. $4 billion in corporate welfare. ExxonMobil is very similar to Emmanuel Goldstein. Let's get those corporate jets, too. Can we tax Air Force One? Loopholes, deductions, yadda yadda. Romney looks incredulous. Balanced approach. Talks about helping young people. Benster says he doesn't want Obama's help.
8:36 p.m. Romney says $90 billion in breaks for green energy. $90 billion of tax breaks into solar and wind. There's Solyndra, Tesla -- "you don't just pick the winners and losers, you just pick the losers." Re overseas tax breaks -- Romney says the tax break for moving jobs overseas isn't true. Wants states to block grant Medicaid. States are laboratory of democracy. Let states do this.
8:39 p.m. Lehrer now talks about entitlements. What are the differences on Social Security? Obama says SS is structurally sound. Talks about Reagan/O'Neill fix from 25 years ago. Talking about his grandmother and says she was independent because of Medicare and Social Security. We're now talking about the $716 billion for "overpaying" insurance. This would be Medicare Advantage. The money goes to Obamacare, of course.
8:42 p.m. Romney says, don't worry about any changes for any current retirees or near retirees. If you're 60 or more, don't worry. Points out that $716 billion savings is just cutting the rates hospitals get paid. Doctors and hospitals won't take patients. End of Medicare Advantage. Put the money back into Medicare.
8:44 p.m. Obama says Medicare is a voucher program under Romney. Obama's against it. Insurance companies are gonna cherry pick, Obama says. His grandmother is at the mercy of the private system. AARP supports Obama. Well, yeah. AARP gets a lot of money under Obamacare.
8:47 p.m. Romney says you can stay in Medicare or try a different system, presumably vouchers. If the government can be as efficient as the private sector, people will choose Medicare. Romney is talking about means-testing benefits. Back to Ryan/Wyden and Simpson/Bowles. How about Baskin/Robbins?
8:49 p.m. Obama says Medicare has lower overhead costs. Of course, because they can dictate prices. Seniors are at the mercy of the insurance companies. AARP again -- Romney needs to hammer Obama and AARP on this.
8:50 p.m. Lehrer asks about regulations. Too much? Romney says regulations are essential. Every free economy has regulation. But some are excessive. Dodd/Frank enters the discussion. Points out that some banks are "too big to fail." "Enormous boon to big banks." Repeal and replace Dodd/Frank. Lehrer keeps interrupting.
8:51 p.m. Obama says reckless behavior is across the board. Talking about bad loans and big profits. Well, that's true. Big opening for Romney if he chooses to take it. Let's see if he does.
BTW, Romney got one minute, Obama got 3. Benster wants to know about LIBOR.
8:54 p.m. Romney says Dodd/Frank is killing regional and small banks. Romney points out that Dodd/Frank doesn't spell out what a "qualified mortgage" is. That's a big miss. Lehrer and Obama are both trying to interrupt Romney.
8:56 p.m. Back to health care. Obamacare. Romney gives a shout out to my hometown of Appleton. Represent! Costs are prohibitive. Obamacare will cost $2500 more than traditional insurance. Expensive things hurt families. Back to the $716 billion. Puts in place the IPAB. This is a big issue. Also points out that employers are less likely to hire because of Obamacare. I personally know this to be true. Obamacare has killed job. Romneycare was okay because it was at the state level. Obama has an opening.
8:58 p.m. Obama says the same discussions happened four years ago. Oops! Now he's talking about pre-existing conditions. Says Obamacare won't let insurance companies "jerk you around." That's the government's job, dammit! Government group plan will save people 18%. Throws Massachusetts back in Romney's face. He asked for five seconds and has now talked for about an extra minute and a half.
9:01 p.m. Romney liked his plan because it was bipartisan. Points out that Obamacare was strictly one party and drove it through. Mentions Scott Brown. Didn't put a board in place. Romney says CBO says 20% will lose coverage; McKinsey says 30% of employers will drop healthcare. Will have to find out if that's true.
9:03 p.m. Obama says the plan is the same as in Massachusetts. Obama claims board is advisory. Well, we'll see about that. Touts the Cleveland Clinic. Romney is smirking. Obama says when Obamacare is fully implemented, we'll see a cost savings. Obama continues to blow the 2 minute strictures away. Lehrer finally stops him.
9:06 p.m. Romney says pre-existing conditions are covered. Private market will allow young people to stay on plan. Back to IPAB. Romney insists that free enterprise is better than government. Says Cleveland Clinic proves Romney's point, not Obama. Suggests performance pay -- mentions Mayo, Cleveland Clinic, etc. Don't have federal government mandate coverage. Private market and individuals always make best decisions.
9:08 p.m. Obama says Romney won't help. Obama says Romney can't say how he'll replace Obamacare. Well, maybe he could if Obama would stop filibustering. Now he's back to Dodd/Frank. Accuses Romney of secrecy. Maybe the plans are too good. Lehrer has to stop him again.
9:11 p.m. Romney says he won't use "my way or the highway." Romney is now talking about hypothetical. Says the key is objective, not specific plans. Ooh, 10th Amendment!
9:12 p.m. Lehrer asks about role of government. How do you view the mission?
9:13 p.m. Obama -- first role is to keep people safe. I'm CIC and I think about it every day. The federal government can create "ladders of opportunity" for people to succeed. Uses Lincoln as an example -- transcontinental railroad, land grant colleges, etc. I'm taking the Lincoln approach. Good news -- maybe he'll suspend habeus corpus! Okay, that's a cheap shot. "Governor Romney thinks we don't need more teachers." That's a cheaper shot than the one I made.
9:16 p.m. Romney -- rejects Obama's statement. Goes back to the constitution. Doesn't believe in cutting military. We are endowed by our creator with rights - right to pursue happiness. Mentions religious freedom, a great topic we won't hear about tonight, unfortunately. Government shouldn't substitute itself for the rights of free people. "Trickle down government." Back to the stat sheet. We know the path we're taking is not working.
9:18 p.m. Lehrer asks if federal government has a role in education. Romney says federal government can play a role. I wish they wouldn't. Praises "Race to the Top." Now talking about money following the child.
9:19 p.m. Obama starts, but Lehrer interrupts. Obama -- budgets reflect choices. Back to tax cuts for the rich. Goes after Ryan -- wasn't very detailed, that seems to be a trend. Says education budget would be cut 20%. Touts community colleges. Obama continues to filibuster. One final example -- that should be another minute. I was wrong, about a minute and a half.
9:22 p.m. Romney -- Obama is entitled to his own airplane and house, but not his own facts. Obama put $90 billion into green jobs. Would have hired 2 million teachers. Many green companies have gone out of business and Obama cronies got the money. Good shot, but people won't know what he's talking about. Romney doesn't want to cut education, he wants to make it more effective and efficient. We all do, Governor, but how.
9:23 p.m. Lehrer says gridlock has paralyzed Washington. What to do? Romney points out that his legislature was 87% Democrats. Romney will meet with the Democrats in Congress immediately upon taking office. Throws out the Middle East.
9:26 p.m. Obama says Romney will have a busy first day. Obama says he'll take any ideas as long as they advance the "ladders of opportunity." We've seen progress even with a Republican House. Leadership isn't just sitting down, it's having a plan. Sometimes you have to say no, too. Lehrer wants to interrupt and Obama won't let him, yet again.
9:28 p.m. Closing statement from Obama. Thanks everyone. My faith is undiminished. Out come the anecdotes. Shout out to Marvin Windows. Toledo. Detroit. How do we build on those strengths? You've heard it all before.
9:30 p.m. Romney -- this is an important election. Concern about the country. Two paths lead in very different direction. There's no question that if Obama is reelected, the middle class squeeze continues. Obamacare will be fully installed if Obama wins. Same ol' laundry list from Romney.
Instant analysis? Nothing I heard tonight will move the needle. Romney brought up some things that most people won't know about, but the key will be if there is follow-up on some questions.
Romney was definitely the aggressor. Obama was coasting a little, I thought. Will it make a difference? Hard to say. No big gaffes that I saw.
What did you think? Post it in the comments!
UPDATE 10:55 p.m. Well the spin is in and apparently Romney won big. Since I was trying to keep up with everything said, I didn't pay a lot of attention to body language, but that seemed to be a big problem. I put MSNBC on for a while and they seemed worried. That surprised me a little. Fox was triumphalist, of course.
Upshot -- I still am not convinced it will move the needle a lot, but now that I've seen some clips of Obama's body language a second time, I'm starting to wonder if he really wants the job. He didn't look at his watch, but he was definitely hoping that time would expire. If Obama is listless the next time he debates, then I think this will turn quickly. One thing is certain -- Mitt Romney wants to be president, rather a lot. Does Barack Obama?