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Live Blog Recap: Wednesday's Denver Presidential Debate

University of Denver
Flickr - Creative Commons

The University of Denver makes history tonight as the first school in Colorado to host the debate. Candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama meet for the first debate that will be focusing on domestic issues: the economy, health care, and governance.

Video and a transcript of the Presidential Debate held in Denver is available here.

Update 8:47 p.m.: Final reaction from reporter Bente Birkeland at the Rocky Mountain PBS watch party: "Every person I've talked to has said Obama could've done better, was low energy and just adequate. This is from mostly Democrats and a few Republicans. There was general agreement Lehrer was bad."

Update 8:42 p.m.: We're wrapping up tonight's live blog, but we will leave you with tonight's dominant search topic on social media and in the twittersphere: Big Bird.

Update 8:37 p.m.: The AP has updated their fact check article on the debate.

Update 8:32 p.m.: Romney: "There are two different paths we have been taking - they lead in very different directions"

Update 8:31 p.m.: Closing remarks. Obama: "My faith and confidence in the American people is undiminished"

Editor's Note: Here's video of the closing remarks from the debate:

Update 8:30 p.m.: Romney: "I am all in favor of green energy, but $90 billion would have hired 2 million teachers". There may be an issue in Colorado if Romney doesn't walk back the "favor of green energy" comment. Romney is on record not supporting the Wind Energy Production Tax Credit, a huge boon to the clean energy sector in Colorado.

Update 8:23 p.m.: Each candidate is going at each other over the education budget:

Obama: "This is where budgets matter, because budgets reflect choices" Romney: "I don't have any plan to cut education funding and grants"

Update 8:18 p.m.: via Nathan Heffel on Twitter

Update 8:15 p.m.: Mention of government creating land-grant universities means a lot to Northern Colorado. Colorado State University in Fort Collins is a land-grant institution. CSU is a big employer in Fort Collins. Education funding has been a big worry in Colorado, recently Tony Frank gave a speech at CSU that brought up the possibility of going it alone with out state funding.

Update 8:13 p.m.: As we pass the 73 minute mark, we move pass health care into the role of the Government and governance.

Update 8:10 p.m.: As the candidates argue over the status of 'Obamacare' keep this in mind: According to the Colorado Health Access Survey (page 3, again .pdf), in Colorado the percentage of the uninsured in 2011 was 15.8%.

Update 8:05 p.m.: The President's response to Mitt Romney's case that there are differences between his Mass law and the national version: "We used the same advisors and they say it is the same plan"

Update 8:03 p.m.: Romney is kind of embracing the health care law in Mass. His criticism seems to be that the President's model on the law was passed with no Republican votes. On the other hand, with the College crowd, there is support of the Affordable Care Act. From WNYC reporter Anna Sale on Twitter:

Update 7:58 p.m.: The debate is moved on to health care now, we've moved past the segments on the economy. The AP has posted some early fact checking on the debate so far.

Update 7:54 p.m.: While Dodd-Frank is being argued over, and other aspects of banking regulation the internet continues to chug away on the Big Bird front. There are two accounts in the wild now. @FiredBigBird (with 3,544 followers) and @BigBirdRomney (with 2,051 followers)

Update 7:51 p.m.:  From reporter Bente Birkeland: Slight booing in the room when Romney says his Medicare plan won't impact current seniors. (note: Bente is on site at the Rocky Mountain PBS watch party in Denver)

Update 7:49 p.m.: via Kirk Sigeler on Twitter

Update 7:45 p.m.: Social programs, like social security and Medicare are on the docket. In Colorado the 65+ population is growing. According to some quick facts from the AARP (again .pdf)

"In 2010, Colroado's population was about 5.1 million, with 11% being age 65 and older. In 2015, the 65+ population will make up 12% of the state's population, and in 2030, it will be 17%."

Update 7:37 p.m.: Romney on the tax subsidy for the oil companies, "it's an accounting treatment that has been around for 100 years."

Update 7:34 p.m.: While the discussion is serious, all about taxes. The mention of Big Bird and his fate has poked the internet. The twittersphere is alive:

Update 7:30 p.m.: Romney apologizes to Lehrer but says he wants to cut PBS, does admit he likes Big Bird. Nathan Heffel is at a watch party hosted by Rocky Mountain PBS and caught this reaction:

Update 7:26 p.m.: via Nathan Heffel on Twitter

Update 7:23 p.m.: We've already blown the format of the debate up, and just in the first segment. Says Dylan Byers of Politico:

Update 7:21 p.m.: Taxes is the beef between the candidates right now. Romney interupts the moderator to respond to the President. In Colorado, our taxes are low. The state sales taxrate in Colorado is 2.9%. But income tax could be a concern for the highly educated workforce the state offers, 40% with a bachelors or higher (page 7, warning .pdf).

Update 7:12 p.m.: Mention of a 'trickle-down' approach may make Coloradoans nervous. The unemployment rate in Colorado is higher than the national average. 8.2 percent in August, which it the first time Colorado’s unemployment rate has been higher than the national rate since 2005.

Update 7:08 p.m.: Romney's opening statement makes mention of a 'trickle-down' approach. The President is asked to respond, he counters with his position on education. Tuition should be kept low. Also covers his tax plan.

Update 7:06 p.m.: While the audience at Magness arena has to remain quiet, you don't have to at home. You can sound-off in the interactive chat. Feel free to comment in the comments section below as well. Pleasantries and opening statements underway right now.

Update 7:04 p.m.: Reporter Nathan Heffel spoke with both a Republican and a Democrat at the RMPBS watch party. Both are hoping for specifics. As the debate starts, we'll see what we get from the candidates.

Update 7:01 p.m.: We're streaming the audio of the debate here, you can catch video via PBS NewsHour here if you are the moving pictures type. Don't forget there's a live chat going on as well - and interactive bingo.

Update 6:55 p.m.: via Kirk Siegler on Twitter

Reporters to follow tonight from KUNC: @KirkSiegler, @BenteBirkeland, and @Heffeln

Update 6:50 p.m.: Now that we've moved past the initial shock of "carmadeggon" Denver style...

Er... The traffic impacts of the closure of I-25. Traffic was the big concern going into the debate preparations but many simply opted to either work from home or take the day off. Traffic was lighter earlier in the afternoon, we snapped a pic to be sure.

There have been signs of dissent all day though in Denver. Occupy was very active on social media today trying to goad the moderator into asking about the NDAA decision, others were protesting their given causes, others were griping about the limits of a free speech zone.

Still yet, there was a lot of excitement on campus at University of Denver at the DebateFest where there was a performance of from The Lumineers. WNYC reporter Anna Sale commented on the almost tailgate like atmosphere:

Update 6:28 p.m.: I-25 was confirmed closed by the Colorado DOT on twitter. Just to be sure, we ran down to the interstate at the Logan St bridge. Have you ever seen I-25 empty at what would have been rush hour?


Credit Jim Hill / KUNC
Here's the view looking SB, towards DU on the Logan St bridge.

Update 6:15 p.m.: The focus for tonight's debate, which is 90-minutes long, is domestic policy. PBS's Jim Lehrer is moderating and has chosen the following topics; the economy, health care, and the role of government and governing. Each segment of the debate will be 15 minutes long. Each segment opens with a question, and each candidate has two minutes to answer. Any remaining time is devoted to discussion.


Tonight's debate is scheduled to start approximately at 7 p.m. MST. In the meantime, you can stream the debate live from KUNC's listen page. We'll also have a live chat with other public radio listeners via WNYC here.

Media speculation on the importance of the debate is high, even while the campaigns are trying to downplay the importance of the debate or even the candidates perceived weaknesses. Earlier Wednesday afternoon, the Joan Shorenstein Center hosted a discussion featuring Aaron Sorkin, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Sen. Alan Simpson and Chuck Todd entitled Politics as Theater.

NBC's Chuck Todd noted that "tonight's presidential debate will be most pre-rehearsed in modern era." Sen. Alan Simpson was a little more blunt in his assessment of what we're looking for:

'This think tonight will be like NASCAR. You're waiting for someone to crash. They're waiting for the gaffe tonight."

Regardless of the expectations of the audience, the media or the candidates' the presidential debate is part of the pageantry of the election cycle. Sometimes they make for good theater, other times for good policy distinctions and definition of the candidates. Both campaigns have stated that this election offers the most defined choice between directions for the country. Hopefully that is what the first debate of this election cycle offers and not what another of Alan Simpson's observations noted from the Politics As Theater discussion.

"Tonight you will see something that looks like Fred Astaire on steroids, as they dance through the issues and never get to anything."

We'll all find out at 7 p.m. tonight as the first debate ever in the Rocky Mountain region kicks off at the University of Denver.

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