The lawyers and commissions and campaigns all worked closely together to try to make the presidential debates boring, and tonight will mark their strongest effort this year: a sit-down debate on foreign policy moderated by Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer. And yet, they are doomed to fail. Just like in the last debates, there will be sighs and zings and mad furious laser eyes, like Obama's, seen at right, when he told Romney to "please proceed" in falsely accusing him of not saying "terror" in his Rose Garden speech about the attacks in Benghazi. We'll be live GIF-blogging the debate in Boca Raton right here.
11:47p.m.: Highlights: Both Obama and Romney started out with smiles and jokes. Then they got a little meaner. Romney thought he nailed his answer on arming Syrian rebels. Moderator Bob Schieffer essentially allowed Romney to shush him when Romney wanted to go on about his domestic proposals. Obama told Romney the military doesn't need old-fashioned technology, because "this isn't Battleship." Obama brought back his hope theme from 2008 in his closing statements, saying, "we always bounce back because of our character." Snap polls showed voters thought Obama won -- women more so than men. Why does that matter? Because, as Mike Allen says again and again in an ominous loop, of "Cold. Hard. Electoral math."
Oh, and Obama talked to a Romney grandchild:
11:44p.m.: Samuel L. Jackson enjoyed the debate: "Thanks everybody, I forget sometimes how much fun this shit is! Goodnight. Remember to VOTE... For Somebody!!"
11:40p.m.: Ann Romney seemed concerned her husband might tumble off the stage while he shook hands with members of the audience.
(Photos via Reuters.)
11:35p.m.: Fact check: Obama lectured Romney that the modern military evolves with new technology, and that's why we don't have as many ships as we did 100 years ago. "We also have fewer horses and bayonets," Obama said. That's probably true.
But for the record, lots of troops are issued bayonets that attach to M16s during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Marines still train with them at boot camp; the Army quit using them in basic training in 2010, The Washington Post's Rajiv Chandrasekaran tweets.
11:27p.m.: Snap poll results: Obama won by 30 points, according to CBS. Its poll of uncommitted voters found 53 percent thought Obama won, while 23 percent thought Romney did. After the first debate, CBS found Romney won by 24 points.
CNN, on the other hand, found Obama to be the winner, but by a much smaller margin: 48 percent to Romney's 40 percent.
Public Policy Polling finds that in swing states, men think Obama won by 48 percent to 45 percent, while women think Obama won 57 percent to 39 percent. Over all, PPP finds Obama winning 53 percent to 42 percent.
11:19p.m.: The candidates' direct-to-camera closing statements.
Obama: "Romney wants to take us back to those policies, a foreign policy that's wrong and reckless, economic policies that won't create jobs, won't reduce our deficit, but will make sure that folks at the very top don't have to play by the same rules that you do. And I've got a different vision for America."
"...If I have the privilege of being your president for another four years, I promise you I will always listen to your voices. I will fight for your families and I will work every single day to make sure that America continues to be the greatest nation on Earth."
Romney: "I'm optimistic about the future. I'm excited about our prospects as a nation. I want to see peace."
"I was in a state where my legislature was 87 percent Democrat. I learned how to get along on the other side of the aisle. We've got to do that in Washington. Washington is broken. I know what it takes to get this country back, and will work with good Democrats and good Republicans to do that."
Schieffer, in the middle of Romney's closing remarks, visibly closes a purple binder. Is it full of women? Or full of media bias, as a nod to the binders full of women?
11:05p.m.: Some of the better attack lines of the night:
- Obama calling Romney inexperienced: "I know you haven't been in a position to actually execute foreign policy - but every time you've offered an opinion, you've been wrong."
- Romney on noticing things: "When there were dissidents in the streets of Tehran, a Green Revolution, holding signs saying, is America with us, the president was silent. I think they noticed that as well… The reason I call it an apology tour is because you went to the Middle East and you flew to Egypt and to Saudi Arabia and to Turkey and Iraq. And by the way, you skipped Israel, our closest friend in the region, but you went to the other nations. And by the way, they noticed that you skipped Israel."
Obama on candidate trips: "If we're going to talk about trips that we've taken - when I was a candidate for office, first trip I took was to visit our troops. And when I went to Israel as a candidate, I didn't take donors. I didn't attend fundraisers."
Romney on Obama's attacks: "I just want to take one of those points, again, attacking me as not talking about an agenda for - for getting more trade and opening up more jobs in this country."
10:58p.m.: Politico's Mike Allen offers some post-debate analysis. The campaigns must not forget "Cold. Hard. Electoral math."
10:49p.m.: Biden watching the debate in Toledo, from the White House Flickr stream:
10:37p.m.: Maybe we shouldn't measure these debates by how many tweets are send during them, but about how many parody Twitter accounts they inspire. Naturally, there's already @MittsUpperLip and the more active @MittUpperLip ("Take it from an expert. Tonight's debate was heated.").
10:28p.m.: Romney doesn't like to be interrupted. When talking about Obama picking winners and losers -- "investing in companies?!" -- Obama tries to cut in. "I'm speaking," Romney says. Obama tries to play it cool.
10:21p.m.: Female votes are less hawkish generally than male voters. Female voters are more likely to be undecided. Obama can't win without a huge advantage among females. So, Romney is sounding a little less hawkish tonight than he did most of the year. Look at the deep concern on his face when he talks about Pakistan's nuclear arsenal.
"A Pakistan that falls apart, that would be a failed state, would be an extraordinary danger."
10:18p.m.: BuzzFeed's Ryan Broderick tweets this GIF:
As we can see above, these are not the scariest of mean Obama eyes.
10:05p.m.: Did Schieffer just say, "Obama bin Laden"?
9:52p.m.: Obama is trying to look smilier when he interrupts Romney. Maybe he's trying to be sort of like Joe Biden in the VP debate -- like, look at this guy, it's so cute, he doesn't know foreign policy stuff. Romney starts talking about increasing funding for the military, and Obama tries to cut in, pointing to the moderator:
"Look, I want to answer the previous question..."
"You mention the Navy, for example. You say we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military has changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers... planes land on them... we have ships that go underwater, called nuclear submarines..."
"This isn't a game of battleship."
9:40p.m.: Romney's upper lip is sweaty. Here's a closeup from the Associated Press.
Maybe it shows up better on TV:
The Atlantic Wire will continue investigating this development as the night progresses.
9:36p.m.: Both Romney and Obama turn the foreign policy debate back to domestic policy. The topic is supposed to be America's role in the world, which Romney says we can't maintain without cutting spending and growing the economy, and which Obama says we can't continue without better education policy.
"Let me get back to foreign policy," Schieffer eventually says.
"Well let me get back to the state I'm so proud of..." Romney says.
"Okay," Schieffer says, inexplicably.
Here's his first try at getting them to shut up:
Romney smiles like he can't believe with how long he's getting away with it while talking about college scholarships for Massachusetts kids.
Schieffer finally gets them to move on:
9:34p.m.: Romney thinks he nails it when he says we should be arming Syrian rebels and help them organize.
9:25p.m.: Romney says he and Obama have the same position on pushing Mubarak out of Egypt, too. "Once it exploded, I felt the same as the president did."
9:17p.m.: Romney and Obama fight over whether, as Romney seems to imply, they have a similar position on whether we should have kept troops in Iraq. Obama keeps insisting Romney gave a speech saying we should have kept 30,000 more troops there. Finally he plays the "I'm president" card, saying, "Here's one thing I learned as commander-in-chief..."
They both try to suggest with their hands that they have the facts.
9:11p.m.: Obama began the night acting a little nicer than at the second debate, smiling at Romney.
But then he slightly fumbles a canned line, which was supposed to go along the lines of, "The 1980s called, they want their foreign policy back." It was a reference to Romney saying Russia was our No. 1 geopolitical foe.
9:07p.m.: Obama promises to go after the people who killed the American ambassador in Benghazi. "I think it's important to step back and think about what happened in Libya." He says that without putting troops on the ground -- and "spending less than what we spent on two weeks in Iraq" -- an international coalition liberated people from a dictator.
9:06p.m.: The first question is Libya and the attacks in Benghazi. Romney congratulates Obama on killing Osama bin Laden and going after al Qaeda leaders. But, "We can't kill our way out of this mess," Romney says, after his adviser Dan Senor signalled on MSNBC today that Romney would be a little less hawkish tonight.
9:03p.m.: Romney begins by thanking the moderator and noting that he and Obama were at the Al Smith dinner, where they told jokes. "It's nice to be together and be funny maybe not on purpose." Or, try to be funny on purpose, and not quite succeed.
8:58p.m.: Bob Schieffer, notorious fun hater, tells the audience: "We have to be quiet as mice. We want a debate that is worthy of the presidency of the greatest country in the world."
8:52p.m.: We've paid a lot of attention to wild conspiracy theories about Obama this year. But that doesn't mean there aren't plenty exciting rumors out there about Romney. Here's one I spotted on Facebook -- for the record, this is not true.
8:40p.m: Obama's official Twitter account tweeted this pre-debate fist bump:
8:20p.m.: The Romneys are warming up by playing Jenga again, via a tweet from Romney's aide:
8:05p.m.: We are watching history tonight, you guys. Let's look back at debates of yore:
October 16, 1996
October 19, 1992
October 15, 1992
October 21, 1984
Geraldine Ferraro watching the October 7, 1984 debate between Mondale and Reagan.
Nancy Reagan gives her commentary on the performance of her husband at the September 21, 1980 debate.
The Carter family's amazing hair at the October 7, 1976 debate.
The reason men wear makeup on camera.
(Photos via Associated Press.)