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Live Blog: Obama and Romney Square Off in First Presidential Debate

The Democratic incumbent and his Republican challenger address each other directly during a 90 minute exchange in Denver.


There's just one thing that's certain about tonight's debate between President Barack Obama and GOP nominee Mitt Romney: when it's over, their respective campaigns will each claim victory.

After half a week of suddenly declaring their candidate the inferior orator (after doing the exact opposite during their conventions) in order to lower expectations for the verbal sparring match, the spinmasters will say that (insert candidate here) made a clear case for his right to spend the next four years in the White House, and clearly connected with the American people. This will be the first of three about faces this month, and the stakes of executing a perfect, Gabby Douglas-esque balance beam walk are high: Obama leads Romney among likely voters by one point in the latest NBC/WSJ poll, and four among those registered to cast a ballot.

What to watch for? Well-practiced answers -- including some zingers -- and maybe some specifics. Obama has alternated his charges regarding Romney's policy proposals: that they're too vague, that they're too conservative, and that they are conservative when he used to be more liberal as the governor of Massachusetts. Romney, on the other hand, will work to put Obama on the defensive, hitting on the slow economy recovery.

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