Fact-checks and analysis on the debate

Charlie Neibergall / AP

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama shook hands before the start of the debate.

Reporters from The Boston Globe are providing fact-checks and analysis in real time during tonight’s presidential debate in Denver. Read the updates below.

11:04 p.m. | ANALYSIS: Television networks are weighing in with some pro-Obama commentators critical of the president’s performance. On CNN, James Carville, the famed Democratic consultant, said Obama “didn’t bring his ‘A’ game.” On MSNBC, a roundtable that included a number of pro-Obama commentators, expressed exasperation that the candidate didn’t seem to have watched the network. If he had, they suggested, Obama might have had more ammunition to go after Romney.

CBS News released an instant poll of 533 uncommitted voters. CBS said “46% say that Romney won, 22% say Obama won,” and the rest were undecided. Obama’s backers are, of course, arguing that their man scored points just as Romney did, but the grumbling among Democrats is nonetheless being heard.

-- Michael Kranish


10:43 p.m. | ANALYSIS: Mitt Romney accomplished much of he wanted in his debate. President Obama did not come out swinging as hard as some of his supporters may have wished. Romney stood on a stage with President Obama, leveling charges against the president, and trying to push back at charges that his policies favored the rich. Obama did not make some of the attacks he likely had in his quiver. Surprisingly, Obama did not reprise some of his most effective television commercials, which include attacks on Romney’s statement that 47 percent of Americans view themselves as victims, as well as jabs at Romney’s tax rates and work at Bain Capital.

While the debate veered toward the wonky, and memorable lines may not have been uttered, Romney’s ability to stand podium-to-podium with the president marked what his campaign will try to portray as a turning point. The next presidential debates, and the vice presidential match-up, could provide yet another turn.

-- Michael Kranish

10:28 p.m. | FACT CHECK: The “board” that will dictate health care coverage: Romney said the Independent Payment Advisory Board created under the Affordable Care Act would dictate what services Medicare enrollees should get. The board would make recommendations to Congress to control Medicare costs. Congress could reject them, but would have to find altnerative ways to cut the program’s budget by the an equivalent amount. See this explanation from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

-- Chelsea Conaboy

10:23 p.m. | FACT CHECK: Here’s a look at Romney’s budget cuts and priorities during his tenure as governor of Massachusetts. State funding to cities and towns took a hit in his efforts to balance the state budget.

-- Megan Woolhouse

10:21 p.m. | FACT CHECK: Romney touts Massachusetts’ schools as the best in the nation. On student achievement, Massachusetts’ fourth- and eighth-graders were tops in the nation in reading and math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, exam in 2011. Nevertheless, the state has been slower to improve on the exam since 2005, and has had flat performance in the past several years, according to the Pioneer Institute, a conservative think tank.

-- Michael Levenson

10:19 p.m. | FACT CHECK: Romney and Obama on pre-existing conditions: The Affordable Care Act prohibits insurers from denying coverage to someone based on their health state, or someone with a pre-existing condition. Romney said during a recent appearance that he hoped to keep that provision.

But many economists argue it’s not possible without a mandate requiring people to get coverage. Healthy enrollees offset the cost of covering the sick. His staff later corrected the statement, saying he would protect those who maintain insurance coverage, something many states already do.

-- Chelsea Conaboy

10:09 p.m. | FACT CHECK: On states crafting their own health care plans: Romney says states should be free to design their own health care plan, as he did in Massachusetts. He fails to mention that the centerpiece of the Massachusetts health care overhaul was the requirement that all residents buy health insurance or pay a penalty -- the same underpinning of the federal overhaul.

Romney is correct that unlike the federal law, the Massachusetts law had bipartisan support, though Obama notes correctly that the individual mandate was originally a Republican idea.

-- Robert Weisman

10:09 p.m. | ANALYSIS: While President Obama has said it before, his statement tonight that he has grown to like the appellation “Obamacare” for his health care plan is a significant strategic move by his campaign. Mitt Romney and many Republicans have used the phrase as a pejorative, saying Obamacare increases the deficit, raises the taxes, raids Medicare funds and puts health care in government hands.

Obama and the Democrats, of course, say the charges are unfair, but they have had a challenge in explaining the benefits of the program. Some of the key pieces of the legislation haven’t taken effect. So, in embracing the opposition’s phrase of Obamacare, the president is doubling down on the importance of the health care plan for his candidacy. Obama is trying to explain what the health care plan does and doesn’t do.

Obama gave a concise sound bite to explain a key, if little-understood, part of his plan. “If you don’t have health insurance, we are essentially setting up a group plan,” Obama said. Then the president repeated his favorite response to Romney’s attacks, saying his plan was modeled on the program Romney signed into law as governor of Massachusetts. Romney’s plan was “essentially an identical model,” Obama said.

Romney, who had been under pressure from some Republicans earlier this year to apologize for passing his plan, similarly made a strategic decision in how to handle questions about it. “I like the way we did it in Massachusetts” with bipartisan support, Romney said, contrasting it with how Obama’s plan was passed without Republican support.

-- Michael Kranish

10:07 p.m. | FACT CHECK: Obama on money insurers returned to consumers: The Affordable Care Act this year returned more than $1 billion to consumers because insurance companies exceeded a 20 percent federal limit on what they could spend on administrative costs and surpluses. In Massachusetts insurers must reach a stricter limit of 15 percent spending.

-- Chelsea Conaboy

10:07 p.m. | FACT CHECK: The candidates dispute the merits of Dodd-Frank. Harvard University economist Kenneth Rogoff, an expert on global recessions and recoveries, writes about how financial “regulation produced in the wake of the crisis have mostly served as a patch to preserve the status quo” here.

-- Megan Woolhouse

10:03 p.m. | FACT CHECK: Three quarters of businesses say Obamacare makes them less likely to hire: The figure comes from an online survey by the Chamber of Commerce of 1,339 executives at companies with fewer than 500 employees and annual revenues of less than $25 million. Seventy-three percent said the health care law is “an obstacle to growing their business and hiring more employees.”

The chamber noted in a press release that “this online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.”

-- Callum Borchers

9:58 p.m. | FACT CHECK: Romney on 4 million people losing Medicare Advantage plans: Enrollment in Medicare Advantage plans increased 90 percent between 2005 and 2009, according to the 2012 Medicare trustees report. Enrollment is expected to decline to a projected 9.8 million in 2016 from 13.5 million in 2012, because of reductions in Medicare payments to private plans.

-- Chelsea Conaboy

9:54 p.m. | FACT CHECK: $716 BILLION MEDICARE CUT. The number is an estimate from the Congressional Budget Office of how much Medicare spending can be reduced between 2013 and 2022 by making health care more efficient for seniors. Romney calls it cuts, Obama calls it savings. This article from the Washington Post, citing Harvard professor John McDonough’s great book “Inside National Health Reform,” explains it well.

-- Robert Weisman

9:51 p.m. | ANALYSIS: Some networks are showing mostly a split-screen of the two candidates. On CNN, at least, this has often shown Obama looking down while Romney is talking. He has grimaced and occasionally flashed a smile. Romney often is shown looking directly at Obama while the president is talking. Over 90 minutes, will this imagery make a difference? Will viewers of networks that don’t feature the split-screen as often have a different impression of the debate than those who watched mostly split-screen broadcasts? And what will be the impact of Twitter, Facebook and, for that matter, live blogging with fact checks and analysis? All of this could impact how the debate is perceived on Thursday morning.

-- Michael Kranish

9:49 p.m. | FACT CHECK: 50 percent of doctors will stop taking Medicare patients because Obamacare reduces payments by $716 billion over 10 years: This claim comes from a very small and informal poll. From a Forbes article in August:

“Steve Daniels, a reporter with WTVD, led an investigation into problems with Medicare access in North Carolina. A team of volunteers used the ‘mystery shopper’ method, posing as Medicare beneficiaries looking for a new doctor. Of the 200 family physicians they called, nearly half said that they were no longer accepting new Medicare patients.”

-- Callum Borchers

9:42 p.m. | FACT CHECK: Did Obama really spend $90 billion on green energy? Sort of. Here’s how that money breaks down, according to the White House:

-- 29 billion for energy efficiency, including $5 billion for improvements in the homes and apartments of low-income households

--$21 billion for renewable electricity generation, including wind turbines and solar panels

-- $10 billion for grid modernization, including millions of “smart meters” that read themselves, eliminating the need for meter readers

-- $6 billion to help establish factories to make batteries for electric cars and other components of advanced vehicles

-- $18 billion for fast trains

-- $3 billion for research and development into capturing and sequestering carbon dioxide

-- $3 billion for job training and scientific advances in green energy

-- About $2 billion to help build wind turbines, solar panels and similar “green” products

-- Callum Borchers

9:41 p.m. | ANALYSIS: President Obama said his tax plan is a “balanced, responsible approach,” and he says that Mitt Romney’s tax approach is “unbalanced.” Using the phrase “balanced approach” is an easier-to-digest way of referring to his proposal that includes raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans. Romney is hitting back by saying that raising taxes during a recession is, in itself, unbalanced. The candidate who wins this “balance” argument could determine the winner of this debate.

-- Michael Kranish

9:35 p.m. | FACT CHECK: Romney adamantly rejects idea he has proposed more tax cuts for the wealthy and that he wants to lower individual tax rates because it could benefit small business. While this is much debated, Romney’s plan would cut taxes but also eliminate tax deductions, which he has said make it revenue neutral. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has drawn a different conclusion, saying it would decrease taxes for the wealthy but increase taxes for the middle class.

-- Megan Woolhouse

9:29 p.m. | FACT CHECK: Obama broke his promise to cut the federal budget deficit in half by the end of his first term: Indeed, Obama pledged shortly after taking office that the deficit would be halved by the end of his first term.

“Now, this will not be easy,” Obama said at the Fiscal Responsibility Summit at the White House on Feb. 23, 2009. “It will require us to make difficult decisions and face challenges we’ve long neglected. But I refuse to leave our children with a debt that they cannot repay, and that means taking responsibility right now, in this administration, for getting our spending under control.”

The deficit in fiscal year 2009 was $1.4 trillion, meaning Obama would have had to shrink the deficit to $700 billion to keep his promise. The deficit was about $1.3 trillion in 2010, 2011 and 2012 and is projected to be about $900 billion in the current fiscal year.

-- Callum Borchers

9:29 p.m. | ANALYSIS: The lengthy discussion between the candidates about tax rates is going pretty deep into the weeds. There is no doubt that the questions about tax rates, and the various studies that support or doubt the theories behind the proposals, are important. But the danger for the candidates is that some voters may wonder if they are running for president or accountant-in-chief.

Putting aside for the moment the question of whether Romney is accurately portraying the impact of his plan, it seems clear that Romney is anxious to keep the conversation going. He is, as his aides often say, all about the data and what the data mean. The debate about the tax plans is only beginning. The statements of both candidates about their tax plans will be analyzed and spun from now until Election Day.

-- Michael Kranish

9:25 p.m. | FACT CHECK: Do lower tax rates lead to more jobs? Here’s what Paul Egerman, founder of the digital medical transcription company eScription, told the Globe in April:

He estimated that tax cuts under President George W. Bush have saved him roughly $10 million over the last decade and asserted the money has helped no one but himself. “It’s not like I took the tax cuts and went out and hired people,” Egerman said.

-- Callum Borchers

9:18 p.m. | FACT CHECK: Obama’s $3,600 tax cut: That’s the average spread over four years for a family making $50,000 per year.

-- Callum Borchers

9:16 p.m. | FACT CHECK: 5 million job creation claim by Obama. See the second chart here, which illustrates job creation under Bush, then Obama.

-- Megan Woolhouse

9:16 p.m. | ANALYSIS: Mitt Romney’s challenge has been to prove he understands the concerns of average voters. That challenge grew greater when a secretly recorded video showed him saying 47 percent of Americans view themselves as victims and that they will vote for Obama no matter what. Tonight, in his opening comments, Romney tried to show empathy, framing the debate through the words of people who are hurting.

-- Michael Kranish

9:15 p.m. | FACT-CHECK: Romney’s $5 trillion tax cut: The figure comes from an analysis of Romney’s tax plan by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

-- Callum Borchers

9:06 p.m. | FACT-CHECK: Obama’s 5 million jobs created: The figure is roughly accurate, but it includes only private-sector jobs and omits an entire year of Obama’s presidency. In total, there are 261,000 fewer people on nonfarm payrolls today than there were when Obama took office.

-- Callum Borchers

9 p.m. | ANALYSIS: The stakes for Mitt Romney in tonight’s debate are, as they say in Denver, a mile high. Challengers usually have more at stake in a debate, and they can gain or lose much in a single sentence.

Romney knows this well; his father, George, famously withdrew from his 1968 presidential campaign after saying he had been brainwashed by US generals in Vietnam. Mitt Romney has learned – some would so over-learned – that lesson. When he veers off script, he has had problems. But a debate that seems to be scripted might not be enough for him. So he has spent weeks preparing for off-the-cuff attacks, as contradictory as that may sound. His team wants him to stay on message without seeming to be reading from a script.

Romney is a practiced debater. This will be Romney’s 20th debate in this campaign, with the others coming in the Republican primaries. He has not had a one-on-one debate in a general election since his 2002 gubernatorial race against Shannon O’Brien.

Obama, while perceived by many to be the better debater, has not had nearly as much live practice recently; the president has not been in a debate since 2008, when he faced Republican nominee John McCain. The challenge for both men is clear: they will be trying to show that they understand the concerns of everyday Americans in a difficult economy. Obama and Romney will be standing across from each, lobbing attacks and counter-attacks, but their mission is to try to connect in a personal way to the television viewers they cannot see, and win over the voters who will determine who is inaugurated in January.

-- Michael Kranish

8:46 p.m. | ANALYSIS: I’m anxious to see a fuller conversation about the federal health law and its relationship to the state’s 2006 law. As Rob said, while the broader national debate has focused a lot on the Affordable Care Act, the candidates have not spent much time on it to date.

-- Chelsea Conaboy

8:43 p.m. | ANALYSIS: Romney spent much of the day at his hotel on the outskirts of Denver, about 20 minutes from the debate site.

The debate would be Romney’s 20th in this presidential campaign, but all of the others were against multiple Republican primary opponents. This will be his first one-on-one debate, and the first time he faces a Democrat since his 2002 gubernatorial race against Shannon O’Brien.

Obama has not been in a debate since 2008, when he faced off against John McCain.

-- Matt Viser

8:38 p.m. | ANALYSIS: I’ll be especially interested to hear -- and parse -- the candidates’ views of Mitt Romney’s tenure as governor of Massachusetts. Hopefully we’ll also learn more about both candidates’ job creation and economic recovery plans tonight as well!

-- Megan Woolhouse

8:30 p.m. | ANALYSIS: I’ll be interested to see how much the Massachusetts health care law, signed by former Gov. Mitt Romney in 2006, figures into the debate -- if at all. The law is widely seen in the state as a success, and the model for President Obama’s national health care overhaul. Both candidates, for different reasons, don’t seem to want to talk much about health care and the laws they sponsored.

-- Robert Weisman

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