Two men enter, two men leave. No, it's not a steel cage match, it's the first presidential debate of 2012, in which two men compete to become the leader of the free world by answering game show style trivia questions, delivering pithy one-liners, and trying really hard not to check their watches or roll their eyes.
Representing the Republicans is Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, the King of Bain, the namesake of RomneyCare, the grandfather of ObamaCare.
Representing the Democrats is Barack Obama, the sitting president, the former Senator from Illinois, the man who gave you the 2009 stimulus, ObamaCare, the Dodd-Frank overhaul of financial regulation, $6 trillion in new federal debt, and so much more.
Tonight is the domestic policy debate, so we'll likely hear discussion of various big and wonky issues of the day: What would these two contenders do about the federal debt? About the nation's unsustainable entitlement system? About the president's unpopular and unworkable health care bill and the continuing problems with the American health system? About the harsh and deeply boring reality of congressional gridlock? Do either of them have policy plans worth a single solitary damn?
We'll also get answers on the questions that people really care about: Will Mitt Romney get angry and Hulk out? Will Barack Obama act thin-skinned, imperious, and condescending? And for the love of the zombie ghosts of Reagan and/or FDR, will there be zingers?
Adding to the suspense is that both campaigns have worked so hard to set pre-debate expectations low enough that any candidate who manages not to show up drunk and wearing face paint and a clown nose (seriously, don't ask) will be said to have beaten expectations, and thus won the evening.
In other words, we're all going to need a drink or two to get through this. And as long as we're drinking, we might as well make it a game. Here's how you can play along with Reason's editorial staff as we imbibe our way through tonight's presidential mano-a-mano:
Take a drink, and click a link, if:
Obama mentions "the 47 percent."
- Romney quips that you, or Obama, or someone, "didn't build that."
- Obama says he has a deficit reduction plan that saves $4 trillion.
- Romney criticizes Obama for having cut Medicare.
- Obama says seniors have earned their entitlement payouts.
- Romney attacks Obama for defense spending cuts.
- Romney says we should repeal ObamaCare.
- Obama mentions similarities between ObamaCare and RomneyCare.
- Obama touts government funding of high speed rail.
- Romney talks about eliminating tax breaks/deductions/loopholes without saying which ones he would eliminate.
- Obama talks about government spending as "investment."
- Romney hits Obama's 2009 stimulus plan without mentioning that at the time he thought more stimulus was necessary and would make the economy recover faster.
- Obama bashes China.
- Romney bashes China.
- Anyone declares we have to out-compete our global neighbors.
- Nobody mentions the drug war.
Be sure to check back in at 9 p.m. EST as Reason staffers offer live commentary on the debate right here on this very blog.
Remember! Reason encourages responsible budgeting and responsible drinking. We've already saddled the future with an unsustainable debt, no need to add a hangover too.