• Obama shows new fire in repeated assaults on Romney
• Republican makes factual mistake on Benghazi attack
• Democrats claims victory in wake of improved performance
• CBS and CNN polls give Obama win by seven points each
• Tweet your thoughts to @rafsanchez
06.40 (01.40) We're going to leave it there for the night, please check our US Election page for the latest.
06.30 (01.30) Our US editor, Peter Foster, says that Obama got personal - and it worked.
Two weeks ago in Denver Barack Obama appeared content to tackle Mitt Romney in the abstract, musing directly to the American people almost as if his opponent was not even in the room. It was a disaster, and he didn’t make the same mistake twice.
Last night it was personal: from the very first exchange in this combative town hall encounter in Hempstead, New York, the president went after Mr Romney, repeatedly and deliberately picking at his opponent’s policy positions – past and present.
Asked by a student how they would improve their chances of getting a job after graduation, Mr Romney ticked off his general plans to boost education and bemoaned the sluggish economy; Mr Obama immediately tackled the man, as much as the question.
“I want to build manufacturing jobs in this country again. You know, when Governor Romney said we should let Detroit go bankrupt, I said, we're going to bet on American workers, and the American auto industry, and it's come surging back,” he said.
This was only the second sentence Mr Obama had uttered all night, but it presaged a clear strategy to unsettle Mr Romney with direct attacks on his record that were designed to impugn his integrity – something that is well known to make the Republican candidate angry.
06.00 (01.00) Over in Dunkirk, Ohio, our Republican voter Dan Marshman said he "really enjoyed" the aggresive exchange of ideas and felt that Romney came out on top. The physicality of this confrontation, compared to the more scholarly exchanges in Denver, particularly appealed.
I was surprised at the near-confrontation. I was very surprised. It didn't bother me. I kind of found it interesting, to the point where I wondered whether one person was going to "buffalo" the other. In my mind I felt that the President was willing to go sit down quicker than what Governor Romney was willing to do. It looked like he was willing to back down a little bit easier. That was good body language for Mr Romney
05.30 (00.30) The insta-polls are giving the debate to Obama.
CNN has 46 per cent saying the President won compared to 39 per cent, just outside the four-point margin of error. CBS also has him up by a seven-point margin, 37-30.
It's a clear win but it's nowhere near the blowout victory Romney scored in Denver. That time around 67 per cent said Romney was the victor compared to only 25 for Obama.
Will Obama's narrow win tonight have a real impact on the polls? Hard to say.
05.00 (00.00) Buzzfeed reminds us that Obama explicitly called the Benghazi attacks "an act of terror" a second time on September 13, at a rally in Colorado.
04.45 (23.45) I've done a quick story on Romney being fact-checked live on air.
Mitt Romney was dramatically corrected mid-debate by the moderator after he inaccurately claimed that President Barack Obama had failed to immediately describe the Benghazi killings as an "act of terror".
In one of the tensest moments of the 90-minute debate, the Republican candidate directly challenged Mr Obama's claim that he had called the killings a terrorist attack within a day of the assault on the consulate in Libya.
"You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack, it was an act of terror?" he asked the President incredulously.
"Get the transcript," Mr Obama replied tersely.
Appearing to believe he had caught his opponent in an error, he turned to Candy Crowley, the debate's moderator, and said: "I want to make sure we get that for the record because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror."
However, Miss Crowley responded that Mr Obama had "did in fact" use the phrase "act of terror" as he and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed the nation on the morning after the September 11 attacks.
04.25 (23.25) The Democrats are making particular hay out of that tense exchange over Benghazi, an area where they expected to get hit.
Maryland governor Martin O'Malley said: "When even the moderator fact checks you in front of the audience you, know you've stepped over the line". Obama's campaign press secretary, Jen Psaki, called the exchange "an unmitigated disaster" for Romney.
The reality is this: Romney was incorrect when he accused Obama of failing to call the Benghazi killings an "act of terror" straight away. Obama did use that phrase in a general sense in the Rose Garden on September 12. But Romney's broader point was fair: for days after the attacks, the White House was deeply reluctant to label what happened as a terrorist attack, and continued to give the impression it was a spontaneous protest that spun out of control.
04.15 (23.15) Democrats are jubilant with the President's performance. Here's John Kerry, who played Mitt Romney during the debates:
The President overwhelmed Mitt Romney tonight with facts and a vision for the future
They're also seizing on that tense moment over Libya.
04.10 (23.10) How do you know Obama thinks he won? Half an hour after the debate finishes he is till out shaking hands on the floor.
03.55 (22.55) Obama showed up tonight angry with Romney over his position-shifting during the last debate and angry with himself for his poor performance. As is his way, he channeled that anger into discipline and converted it into an aggressive debate performance where he looked like he was almost always on the front foot. He attacked at every opportunity and he hit the issues that he missed or fumbled last time: 47 per cent; women's health; and Romney's tax numbers.
Romney was certainly less good tonight than he was in Denver, though he was by no means a disaster. There were moments when he was peevish with the moderator and borderline disrespectful to America's head of state. And the exchange on Libya - where he was fact checked by the moderator in real time- will haunt him. But he was also fluent on the most important issue of the election: the economy.
It wasn't a rout the way Denver was. But I think it's pretty clear Obama came out on top.
03.50 (22.50) From the debate, Peter Foster scores this one as a win for the President:
From inside the bubble, we are scoring that as a 7-3 win for Barack Obama. He was fluent confident and repeatedly set Mitt Romney on the back foot. Obama pulled absolutely no punches tonight, making this a very personal, combative contest.
03.46 (22.46) Once again, Obama has significantly more speaking time than his Republican opponent.
03.40 (22.40) Unlike the last debate, the two men don't exchange any words as the debate ends. Obama looks calm and happy greeting a small throng of audience members. Romney retreats into a circle of his family, all of whom look strained, before breaking out to talk to the voters.
03.36 (22.36) Obama pushes back against the notion that he is a statist and sums up his campaign philosophy:
I believe in self reliance and individual initiative and risk takers begin rewarded but I also believe in everyone getting a fair shot and everyone doing their fair share and everyone playing by the same rules.
He also tears into Romney over the 47 per cent comments, leaving them echoing in the ears of voters in the final moments of the debate.
03.36 (22.36) Obama pushes back against the notion that he is a statist and sums up his campaign philosophy:
I believe in self reliance and individual initiative and risk takers begin rewarded but I also believe in everyone getting a fair shot and everyone doing their fair share and everyone playing by the same rules.
03.35 (22.35) And things get Zen. What's the biggest mis-perception about you? Romney says the Obama campaign has demonised him:
The President's campaign has tried to charactersise me as someone other than who I am. I care about 100 per cent of the American people.
He says his passion flows from his belief in God, talking comfortably about his experience as a Mormon missionary and passing healthcare reform in Massachusetts. He has a good riff about how America doesn't "need to settle" for high petrol prices and huge deficits.
03.32 (22.32) Obama says he has put "unprecedented pressure" on China and that's why the value of the Chinese currency has risen American exports are up.
Both men seem to be competing to be closest to the moderator, each taking baby steps towards her podium as they answer a question about convincing American companies not to chase cheap labour costs overseas. Romney says making sure all countries play by the same rules. Obama says "some jobs are not coming back" but that education and investments in manufacturing will ensure America's future.
03.31 (22.31) Overall, Richard Blackden has been impressed by the discussion of the economy in this debate:
This is by far the best debate we have had so far on the economy. Jobs, energy and the role of taxation in economic growth have all been chewed over. A debate is unlikely to give you full answers to any of these issues, but voters this evening are at least getting a sharp contrast between Obama and Romney's approach. The debate also shows that the election is not just about the economy, but the political and moral philosophy that frame how the candidates want to grow the economy. The fact that neither candidate has the complete answer, underlines that even with all the talk about the economy and jobs, this is ultimately a broad political and moral choice for voters.
03.30 (22.30) And back to the question at the heart of the election: how will your bring jobs back to the US and keep them here?
Romney says Obama has not stood up to China and refuses to label the rising eastern power as a currency manipulator. "We're going to make sure that the people we trade with are playing by the rules," he says. We also need to make "America the most attractive place in the world for businesses of all kind" and says he will cut taxes for businesses.
I've talked to small businesses around this country and they say they feel under attack from their own government.
03.25 (22.25) The candidates are asked about gun violence: why has Obama done so little on guns since taking office and why is Romney against the assault rifle ban he once supported?
03.20 (22.20) A dramatic moment. Romney senses he has Obama trapped in a lie by claiming that he called Benghazi and "act of terror" straight away. Obama insists that he did and the moderator backs him up, prompting a prohibited round of applause from the audience.
Here's the transcript from September 12:
No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for. Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America. We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act. And make no mistake, justice will be done.
03.17 (22.17) Romney clobbers Obama, reminding voters that the administration initially said the the killings were the result of a spontaneous protest and that Obama went on to a political event the evening after the killings.
Obama comes back furiously:
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03.15 (22.15) Obama is about the killings in Benghazi and the State Department's decision to reject repeated requests for more security from diplomats on the ground. He talks tough and vows to track down the killers - and sort of takes overall responsibility - but he doesn't really address the question.
I'm ultimately responsible for what's going over there because these are my folks and I'm the one that has to greet these coffins when they come home
03.10 (22.10) Things get testy over Obama's cheap shot about Romney investing in company's that supply surveillance equipment to the Chinese government. "Have you looked at your own pension?" Romney demands. "It's smaller than yours," replies Obama but he doesn't look comfortable having this pushed back on him.
03.06 (22.06) We're onto a question about immigration now. Romney is sounding more moderate than he ever did during the Republican primaries, saying he supports a path to permanent residency for young people who were brought to the US illegally by their parents and says masters degrees or military service would be a way.
It's stronger territory for Obama, who has good sound bites about how Romney once described part of Arizona's controversial immigration law as "a model for the nation" and that he urged "self deportation" for illegal immigration.
03.01 (22.01) Obama is still up, says Peter Foster.
At two thirds mark, I'm scoring the second 30 minutes 6-4 Obama. He hit Romney on his Chinese investments and trumpeted strong record on women. Romney had good final answer, listing Obama's pledges, and his failure to meet them.
02.56 (21.56) An African-American man says he voted for Obama last time but he no longer feels hopeful. Obama trots through his tax cuts for the middle class and passing Obamacare ("the same plan Governor Romney passed in Massachusetts, where it's working well").
The question elicits the best answer of the night from Romney, saying the President has not delivered on his promises.
The middle class has been crushed under the policies of a president who doesn't know how what it takes to kickstart the economy... The President has tried but his policies haven't worked.
He compares Obama's handling of the recession unfavourably to Reagan's in the 1980s. He's clearly given a lot of thought about how to address independent voters who backed Obama last time. Remember this snip from the 47 per cent video?
02.55 (21.55) Obama uses the question exactly as you would expect - Romney is even more extreme on economics but nowhere near as compassionate on immigration.
02.54 (21.54) Timothy Stanley says Obama is looking good but that Romney can still win the argument on the economy.
Obama is having a good debate. He’s much tougher than last time and willing to pick apart Romney’s policies. In fact, the President’s command of the stage is such that it’s starting to feel like he’s been given a little more time to speak than his opponent. If that’s so, expect conservatives to cry bias in the days that follow.
Romney’s doing okay and is perfectly personable, but we’re seeing some of his old flaws. His tax plan is confusing (he’ll lower rates for the rich but not reduce their total tax contribution) and sometimes he speaks in innuendoes (“women in the workplace have to be more flexible”). Obama's revelation of his low tax rate (14 per cent) was a crushing moment. Romney isn't as smooth in the way that he navigates the stage and sometimes his irritation with Obama shows in a frown that’s unflattering under the lights. But he does have a trump card: the economy. Whenever Romney brings things back to the last four years and Obama’s policy failures – he wins.
02.50 (21.50) A second question in the row that seems to play straight into Obama's hands. A woman says she blames the Bush administration for many of the country's problems and wants to know whether Romney would be any different. Without hesitating, Romney throws Bush under the bus, blaming him for deficits, not being tough on China and insisting that lamenting: "our party has been focused on big business for two long" .
He makes a salient point about Obamacare frightening small business from hiring too many employees.
02.45 (21.45) The President was criticised in the last debate for not bringing up social issues, where Romney looks least comfortable. He's making up for lost time now - reminding for the second time that the Republican would cut Planned Parenthood funding and that he wants to take away abortion rights.
02.40 (21.40) We're on to Obama's favourite subject: what would you do to ensure women are not discriminated against in terms of pay. As ever, the President reminds people that the first law he signed was the Lily Ledbetter act, which gives women more time to sue employers who don't pay them fairly.
Romney tells a story about how he deliberately tried to find women for his cabinet in Massachusetts, and that he had more women in senior positions than any state in America. He says employers need to offer flexible schedules and says that the best single thing for women would be a restored economy.
02.37 (21.37) Obama is going for on how Romney can pay for his tax cut without exploding the deficit or pushing the tax burden to the middle class.
We have not heard any specifics from Governor Romney except for Big Bird and cutting Planned Parenthood
He says Romney wouldn't accept such a "sketchy deal" when he was a businessman and the American people shouldn't either.
Romney is really unhappy. "Of course [the numbers] add up," he snaps.
02.36 (21.36) Peter Foster scores the opening third:
A very hot start from Barack Obama in the first 30 minutes. I'm scoring that a clear 7-3 win for the President. Romney quibbling over the rules, struggling for fluency, as Mr Obama lands his shots.
02.35 (21.35) Interesting snippet from the pool reporter inside the debate hall. They're not used to seeing the President spoken to like that.
Not sure if it picked up on TV, but there was an audible gasp from the audience when Romney said "you'll get your chance in a moment" to POTUS.
And minutes later, many in the audience laughed after Obama said "you'll be back in the same mess" and again after Romney disputed the rules and Crowley said "it doesn't quite work like that."
02.32 (21.32) Obama links Romney to the hugely unpopular Republican Congress, saying they want to "hold the 98 per cent hostage" by insisting that they will they only allow tax cuts for the middle class to to go through if the wealthiest also get to hold on to their Bush-era tax cuts.
02.30 (21.30) A question on tax rates. Romney insists that he is not intending to lower taxes for the very wealthy, saying that top 5 per cent will continue to pay 60 per cent of the income tax. Obama is smirking already because he's about to bring this up:
02.25 (21.25) Romney gets a bit shirty with the moderator, but then Obama tries to talk over her. Both men need to be careful, the last thing the audience wants to see is them getting aggressive with the referee.
02.23 (21.23) Romney to Obama: This is not Mr Oil, This is not Mr Gas.
02.22 (21.22) The two men just came on the verge of a high school nose-to-nose, standing a few feet from eachother and all but accusing eachother of lying. They can't agree on whether oil production on federal land has gone up or down in the last four years. Obama sits for a moment but jumps to his feet in protest. Romney isn't amused.
I'm still speaking. You'll have your turn in a moment.
02.20 (21.20) For the second time in 20 minutes, Obama says Romney's comments just aren't true. The President looks his opponent right in the face and reminds him that he once stood in front of a coal plant in Massachusetts and said he wouldn't creat jobs that kill.
02.16 (21.16) The two men are really going for each other and this debate has all of the fireworks that the last one didn't. But will the audience in the hall find their aggression off putting?
Either way Obama looks in infinitely better shape than he did last week.
02.12 (21.12) Romney defends his "let Detroit go bankrupt" comment, saying that those companies had to go through managed bankruptcy to get back in order. But Obama comes back and comes back hard.
What Governor Romney just simply said isn't true. Governor Romney doesn't have a 5-point plan he has a one point plan and that's to make sure the folks at the top play by a different set of rules.
Romney is not happy: that answer was "way off the mark".
02.09 (21.09) Obama looks peppy as he answers the same question, telling young Jeremy "your future is bright". But then he goes through his usual talking point about rebuilding the manufacturing industry and reminds voters that Romney wanted to let "Detroit go bankrupt". Jeremy is a university student and presumably isn't going into car-building. Obama looks strident but perhaps over-focused and should have answered the question a bit more specifically.
02.08 (21.08) First question from Jeremy Epstein, a 20-year-old college student, who wants to know what they can promise him for the future. Romney goes first and brings up a student he met in Pennsylvania, a blue state that he hopes to prise away Obama. Clever to again mention the anonymous struggling voters.
He says the last four years have been "very, very hard for America's young people" and says he knows what it takes to create jobs for a new generation.
02.00 (21.00) And here we go. Candy Crowley, the CNN anchor, is introducing the debate and says only she and her producers know the questions that will have such an impact on the presidential election. The candidates are on stage and they've swapped tie colours - Romney in blue and Obama in red.
01.52 (20.52) Scoop alert: Our own Jon Swaine has tracked down Marisa Hall Summers, the woman who stumped George HW Bush in the 1992 town hall debate and who asked the question that induced one of Bill Clinton's greatest performances. It's been 16 years since she spoke to a journalist and she has nothing nice to say about Mitt Romney.
The woman who stumped George HW Bush in a 1992 debate by asking him how he could relate to the struggles of ordinary Americans has accused Mitt Romney of being just as out of touch 20 years later.
Marisa Hall Summers, who lost her job in the recent recession, said that the Republican presidential challenger's secretly-recorded remark that 47 per cent of voters were government-dependent “victims” showed that “he doesn't understand this country at all”.
Ms Hall Summers, who is now 45, became an emblem for the death of Mr Bush's presidency – and the rise of Bill Clinton – by asking in a town hall debate how the candidates had been affected personally by America's economic downturn.
“If it hasn't,” she asked from the audience in Richmond, Virginia, “how can you honestly find a cure to the economic problems of the common people, if you have no experience in what's ailing them?”
Mr Bush, a multimillionaire, struggled to answer, saying “it has a lot to do with interest rates”, before asking: “Are you suggesting that if somebody has means that the national debt doesn't affect them?”
He told the then-25-year-old, who worked for an engineering firm that had suffered in the downturn: “You oughta be in the White House for a day”.
By contrast, Mr Clinton approached the audience and gave an emotional account of how the country's economic woe had affected Arkansas, the state he then governed. “I have seen what's happened in this last four years,” he told Miss Hall directly. “In my state, when people lose their jobs there's a good chance I'll know them by their names. When a factory closes, I know the people who ran it”.
01.30 (20.30) Half an hour to go and you have to wonder if the President of the United States is superstitious at all. He lost three out of the four coin tosses that decide who is introduced first, who gets the first question etc etc.
01.25 (20.25) Here's Romney a little bit less composed:
He was speaking at a town hall in New Hampshire before the Republican primaries and took issue with a women who launched a seemingly-endless lecture about the need for the federal government to come to the aid of citizens in the event of natural disaster.
Tonight's town hall is billed as a return to the basic American political tradition of candidates have to face their electorate with no scripts and nothing off limits. But the reality is that tonight will be an ultra-controlled environment and the chances of a voter haranguing either candidate are virtually zero.
01.20 (20.20) Romney always looks cool as a cucumber in the moments before the debates.
Last time he had four of the five sons with him but Ben Romney, the family's only blonde boy, was busy with his medical work in Utah. This time it looks like Ben is in attendance along with Matt and Josh and some of the wives. No sign of Tagg or Craig but they may just be out the shot.
01.15 (20.15) Our US editor, Peter Foster, mentioned earlier that Obama needs to take a leaf out of Bill Clinton's book when it comes to the debate.
This interaction in 1992 is the ultimate town hall debate moment. Clinton's powers of connection utterly upstaged George Bush Snr, who looked cranky and out of touch as Billy Boy felt your pain.
01.04 (20.04) Michelle Obama just got in touch with supporters via email to tell them it "gives us both so much strength to know you're out there, cheering him on, building this campaign from the bottom up". And then, as usual, she asked for $13.
The First lady will be sitting with US Army veteran Seth Bodnar and his wife Chelsea. Originally she was slated to sit next to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo but the guv graciously gave up his seat to let the couple sit together. Cuomo will be taking careful notes tonight as he very well may be on this stage as the Democratic contender in 2016.
00.55 (19.55) Both candidates have had rough moments during town halls. In 2010, Velma Hart, an Obama supporter, told the President to his face that she was "exhausted defending you" and "deeply disappointed" at how little had changed during his first two years as president.
00.45 (19.45) The New York Observer has waited until both candidates were in the state to throw its backing behind Mitt Romney. Las time it supported Obama but here's its editorial endorsing the Republican.
Gov. Romney won the Republican Party’s nomination precisely because he is not an ideologue—and that is no small achievement. He persuaded enough Republican primary voters that the time has come to put aside dogma and inflexibility in favor of real-world solutions to the array of problems America faces at home and abroad.
Over the last few weeks, Mr. Romney has shown that he is a moderate to his core—he is a manager, and a listener, who believes he can restore the balance between the private and public sectors that has been a hallmark of the American economy.
The Observer endorses Mr. Romney’s candidacy and urges readers to support him.
Four years ago, Barack Obama captured the imagination of many Americans with his thrilling message of change. Given the challenges confronting the president—two raging wars and an unprecedented global economic collapse—the desire for a quick fix was unrealistic.
America supported that candidate (as did this newspaper), but his presidency, so filled with promise and potential, has failed to deliver the change America needs.
00:33 (19:33) The US Geological Survey reports that the earthquake - with an epicenter in southern Maine - was a magnitude 4.6. Enough to startle New England, but fortunately not likely sufficient to cause any major damage or injuries.
00:20 (19:20) Perhaps some sort of omen for the former Massachusetts Governor?
00.00 (19.00) Hillary Clinton has been in the news today as she reaches the final months of her tenure as Secretary of State.
Meanwhile, John Kerry, the man who so badly wants to replace her, is in New York as an Obama surrogate tonight. He's been playing the part of Mitt Romney in debate practice and gave a scathing speech about the Republican at the DNC. Whether his loyalty will be rewarded with a job remains to be seen.
23.50 (18.50) Van Jones is not a man unfamiliar with controversy. The activist joined the White House as a green jobs adviser when Obama took power but it soon emerged that he had signed a 9/11 "truthers" petition and made disparaging remarks about Republican members of Congress Obama was then trying to work with.
He resigned in late 2009 and has since re-emerged as television talking head. Earlier today on CNN, he somewhat unwisely said Romney had behaved "kind of like a douche".
Just now he's popped up again to apologise for his "very poor choice of words".
23:17 (18:17) Green Party candidate Jill Stein has been arrested outside the debate venue at Hofstra University. Although she was not invited to the debate, Stein, along with her running mate Jill Honkala and other supporters, tried to gain entrance to campus in an attempt to participate. After the group was denied entrance, Stein and Honkala sat down in the street. in protest, and were eventually removed from the scene by police.
22:43 (17:43) In our piece yesterday on the uncertainties of town hall debates highlighted the risks (and potential rewards) of taking questions from an unpredictable audience. Probably more often than not, audience questions are not the ones candidates want to answer. This woman's "questionsult," from New York Magazine, shows just how prickly things can get.
22:14 (17:14) The New York Times Dining and Wine section has sampled the now-famous White House Honey Ale, brewed with honey harvested from the bees in the White House gardens. The verdict of Brooklyn Brewery's Garrett Oliver?
"It has character, but it's also crowd-pleasing. It's a politically friendly beer in that regard, and isn't that what we're all looking for?"
Unfortunately, Mr Romney, as a teetotalling Mormon, won't likely have a beer recipe to share with us any time soon.
22:00 (17:00) Another day, another sex scandal in American politics. Dinesh D'Souza, evangelical author and creator of the anti-Obama film "2016: Obama's America" has reportedly been sharing hotel rooms with a woman he called his fiancee. The main problem? He's been married to another woman for 20 years.
21:26 (16:26) Mitt is in the building. He's arrived at Hofstra University, and has just been greeted by the son of one of his secret service agents. The boy had a treat for Mr Romney - a pack of the candidate's favorite candy, Peanut M&Ms.
Photo via DGJackson
21:15 (16:15) Democratic candidate for Senate Elizabeth Warren is raking in the endorsements lately. First one from Barack Obama (no big surprise) and now, apparently, from Bush-appointed former FDIC chair Sheila Blair.
20:43 (15:43) From the POTUS pool report, here's Barack Obama's pre-debate schedule (and menu).
1. The POTUS worked out this morning and then met up with his team to do a short 45 minute review this morning. He had pasta with chicken for lunch.
2. This afternoon he will do last minute prep for about an hour with his team. He will spend some down time with his close friends in town for the debate-Marty Nesbitt and Mike Ramos.
3. He will have dinner with the FLOTUS at the hotel before the debate. They are having steak and potatoes at the hotel.
20:05 (15:05) Foreign Policy Magazine's Passport blog has a funny little piece guessing at what the audience questions in tonight's debate might be if the whole audience were foreign affairs geeks. Among the highlights are obscurities like 10) Given our military presence in Diego Garcia, does the US have an obligation to help resolve the Chagos archipelago dispute? and zingers like 15) Who would you call if you wanted to call Europe?
19:55 (14:55) It looks like Obama won't be off the hook for the Benghazi consulate attack so easily.
19:25 (14:25) Some interesting numbers from Public Policy Polling: in Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina, over 60 percent of Republicans and 50 percent of Democrats expect the other party to engage in voter fraud on a scale large enough to impact statewide results.
18:55 (13:55) The spin machines are already fired up an running over A123 Systems' bankruptcy. As news of the bankruptcy begins to circulate on Twitter, the Department of Energy has released a statement noting that despite its bankruptcy filing, A123 Systems will continue to function with additional private funding, and that the company has only used about half of their $249 million stimulus grant.
18:39 (13:39) Critics of Obama's 2009 stimulus package love to point out when a stimulus-backed company declares bankruptcy. As of today, they'll have a new punching bag. The Huffington Post reports that A123 Systems, which Obama had praised as a "success story" in 2010, have declared bankruptcy after receiving $249 million in stimulus money.
18:07 (13:07) Mitt Romney has gained another 2 points on Obama in Gallup's 7-day tracking poll of likely voters. The challenger currently leads 50-46 percent.
18:04 (13:04) Air Force One has landed on Long Island as Barack Obama arrives for tonight's debate at Hofstra University.
17:48 (12:48) In Ohio, where the President has maintained the slimmest of polling leads since his debate loss two weeks ago, Team Obama got a boost today from the US Supreme Court. The nine justices upheld an order by a lower court to allow early voting to continue in the three days immediately prior to the election on November 6th. Republicans in the Ohio state government had attempted to shut down voting on those days.
17:35 (12:35) A joke website has sprung up today at Romneytaxplan.com. The site pokes fun at the Romney campaign's unwillingness to share specifics on their candidate's tax reform plan. It invites visitors to click a button to "Get the Details," but the button doesn't asctually function, instead jumping away from the cursor's attempt to click it.
17:09 (12:09) Scholastic, a weekly magazine for schoolchildren, has released the results of its traditional presidential poll of its readers, which has correctly predicted the winner of every presidential election since 1964. The results show Barack Obama winning by a comfortable electoral margin of 354-184. However, the idea that the President would somehow win conservative stronghold South Carolina while losing the swing state of Virginia seems a bit far-fetched.
16:32 (11:32) Barack Obama has left his debate prep venue and is on his way to the airport, says the pool report:
At 11:19, the president's motorcade pulled away from the Kingsmill resort. Some staff members and guests waved good-bye from the road. One woman held a small, handmade sign: "I (heart) Obama."
16:18 (11:18 EDT) Lilly Broadcasting reporter Jacqueline Policastro tweets "first look" at the debate stage from last night.
15.44 Tim Stanley writes that when it comes to debating, Obama might be the new Messiah but he's no Bill Clinton:
Tonight is round 2 of the great presidential debates of 2012. Although this one will be less like a boxing match and more like a 90-minute edition of Oprah. The format is ordinary people asking questions from the audience, which means that the goal of the evening is empathy, empathy, empathy. Rather than scoring points against each other, the candidates have to show that they understand people’s problems, care about them and have solutions. It’s like a talk show for megalomaniacs.
15.40 Janet Brown, executive director of the Commission on Presidential Debates explains how tonight's town hall debate between President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney poses particular challenges for candidates as they must engage directly with voters:
15.27 We have put together an article charting the 10 greatest debate moments, from Nixon's sweat problem against Kennedy to Dukakis's blunder over the death penalty. Read the full article including video clips here.
14.56 Get a "full explanation" of the Romney-Ryan tax plan (courtesy of the Obama camapign).
US First Lady Michelle Obama speaks during a campaign rally at the Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio, on October 15, 2012
14.26 First Lady Michelle Obama counted herself among those who have already voted. She posted her Illinois absentee ballot on Monday, later telling college students at a rally in Delaware, Ohio:
Today I voted for my husband. Yes!
It felt so good.
13.52 The Telegraph's US editor, Peter Foster, writes that Barack Obama is probably sick of taking lessons in political persuasion from Bill Clinton, but when he meets Mitt Romney in the second presidential debate on Tuesday he must take another leaf out of the Clinton playbook – he must make ordinary people believe again:
After an inexplicably herbivorous performance in Denver, the pundits and campaign aides have been promising that Mr Obama will draw blood in New York, however the problem now confronting the president after four difficult years in office cannot be solved by aggression alone.
Certainly Mr Obama must combat Mr Romney; he must be quicker on his feet and sharper in his ripostes (it’s no good rebutting claims in speeches and adverts the day after) but, most importantly, the President needs to show he still has something to sell – even if he doesn’t really.
13.36 Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State overnight attempted to draw criticism away from Barack Obama by saying she took full responsibility for the security failures that led to the death of the US ambassador to Libya. Here is our full story and video. Mrs Clinton told CNN:
I take responsibility.
I want to avoid some kind of political gotcha.
13.30 BST (08.30 Eastern) Hello and welcome to our live coverage of the US Election as we count down to tonight's crucial debate.