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Debating The State of the Economy; Big Bird: Debate Newsmaker; Obama Speaks From Sloan Park, Denver; September Jobs Report Due Friday

Aired October 4, 2012 - 12:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Suzanne Malveaux.

Right now the whole country talking about one thing, last night's historic debate. At this hour, we're digging through the facts, the figures, cutting through the spin. And then at 1:00 p.m. Eastern, we're going beyond the sound bites. We're going to replay the whole debate in full so you can get a sense for yourself. Two different visions of the country's future that these candidates represent. Got a lot to talk about. Let's get right to.

All right, Mitt Romney coming out swinging. Many viewers from the left and from the right say President Obama took a shellacking. Dana Bash, she's got the highlights.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Right out of the gate it was clear, Mitt Romney came to play.

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The president has a view very similar to the view he had when he ran four years ago, that a bigger government, spending more, taxing more, regulating more, if you will, trickle down government would work.

BASH: President Obama sounded a familiar alarm, warning of Romney's been there done that economics.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The approach that Governor Romney is talking about is the same sales pitch that was made in 2001 and 2003. And we ended up with the slowest job growth in 50 years.

BASH: But whether it was health care, jobs, or Medicare, it was Romney who stood out for his aggressive style.

ROMNEY: I just don't know how the president could have come into office facing 23 million people out of work, rising unemployment, an economic crisis at the kitchen table, and spend his energy and passion for two years fighting for Obamacare.

BASH: The president made his points in a slower, more laid back manner, often looking down, sometimes appearing disengaged. It's not that he didn't try to rip apart Romney's economic plan --

OBAMA: That kind of top-down economics, where folks at the top are doing well, so the average person making $3 million is getting a $250,000 tax break, while middle class families are burdened further.

BASH: Romney was determined to go toe to toe.

ROMNEY: Well, but virtually --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is the difference?

ROMNEY: Virtually everything he just said about my tax plan is inaccurate.

JIM LEHRER, DEBATE MODERATOR: All right. Go.

ROMNEY: So if the tax plan he described were a tax plan I was asked to support, I'd say absolutely not.

BASH: The president did get digs in.

OBAMA: For 18 months he's been running on this tax plan. And now, five weeks before the election, he's saying that his big, bold idea is, never mind.

BASH: But he also showed flashes of the kind of testiness sources in both camps feared from their candidates, except Obama's was directed at the moderator, not Romney.

OBAMA: The last point I'd make before --

LEHRER: Two minutes - two minutes is up, sir.

OBAMA: No, I think -- I had five seconds before you interrupted me. Was --

BASH: Romney did have his own awkward moderator moment.

ROMNEY: I'm sorry, Jim, I'm going to stop this subsidy to PBS. I'm going to stop other things. And I like PBS. I love Big Bird. I actually like you too.

BASH: One of the most surprising parts of the president's performance was what he did not say. No mention of Romney's infamous 47 percent remark, no talk of Bain Capital, nothing about Romney's own taxes. He did play the Romney is a hypocrite card when it comes to health care.

OBAMA: The irony is that we've seen this model work really well in Massachusetts, because Governor Romney did a good thing working with Democrats in the state to set up what is essentially the identical model and, as a consequence, people are covered there. It hasn't destroyed jobs.

BASH: Romney, who ran from his Massachusetts health care plan during the GOP primaries, now used it to tack (ph) to the middle for the general election. ROMNEY: I like the way we did it in Massachusetts. I like the fact that in my state we had Republicans and Democrats come together and work together. What you did instead was to push through a plan without a single Republican vote.

BASH: And Romney's countless hours of rehearsals clearly produced lines like this.

ROMNEY: Mr. President, you're entitled, as a president, your own airplane and your own house, but not your own facts.

BASH (on camera): That was one of the few memorable one-liners of the night. What made the debate stand out was how zinger-free and substantive it was, especially on the candidates' contrasting economic plans. The problem for the president is he left many of Romney's claims and charges unanswered, and left many Democratic strategists and supporters very frustrated.

Dana Bash, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: With the first debate behind him, President Obama, he is back out rallying supporters. Now, the president, he's set to begin speaking at a campaign event in Denver. We expect that he's going to come out any moment now. You're taking a look at live pictures there. You see the poster. As soon as it starts, we're going to bring that to you.

And right now, whether or not you're a Democrat or a Republican, it seems like most folks who watched this debate actually agree that hands down the winner, Mitt Romney. A CNN/Opinion Research poll released after the debate shows 67 percent of those who watch said Romney won, while 25 percent gave it to the president.

Joining us from Washington to talk about it, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, Republican Strategist Ana Navarro. Both CNN contributors.

We were up late last night watching this thing. A lot of people are talking about it today.

Ana, first of all, when you and I talked yesterday, your advice to Romney was, try not to be funny, challenge the president, and bring it even saying novina (ph). I assume you're feeling pretty good that your prayers were answered?

ANA NAVARRO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Hallelujah. Amen. You know, we saw a miracle last night. We saw a guy who was on the ropes come back, get out of ICU and stand on his feet again.

Look, last night was a very important moment for Mitt Romney. I think the expectations game really helped him. Even though both campaigns had tried to lower expectations, the truth is, the American voters were waiting to see a very good Barack Obama, and President Obama just didn't show up with his a game. Mitt Romney did. I saw a lot of the same Mitt Romney that I saw win the two debates in Florida. He was focused. He was assertive. He was aggressive. He was knowledgeable. And I just don't know what happened to President Barack Obama.

MALVEAUX: All right, let's --

NAVARRO: That's the question that I've been asked so many times this morning, where was he?

MALVEAUX: Let's ask Donna, because, Donna, honestly, you're not about spin. You're about keeping it real here. And I was texting late into the night with a lot of Obama campaign surrogates and supporters who are very disappointed with the president, and that's what they said to me. They said, "He didn't show up. He didn't show up. He didn't fight for himself. He didn't correct Romney's misstatements." And even one of the tweets that was circulating said, "Mr. President, raise your head." Even the body language here disturbed a lot of people.

What happened? What happened? Where was the president, President Obama, last night?

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, first of all, I think he gave Mitt Romney that ID. He probably saw all of the Kleenex and the tears that the Republicans were wasting over Mitt Romney and decided, you know what, I'm going to give this guy a helping hand.

No. Look, the honest truth is that the president had a bad night. But despite all of that, I don't think that Mitt Romney, you know, knocked it out of the ballpark. Mitt Romney is much better at these debates. He's well rehearsed. He loves these (INAUDIBLE), no matter if it's with eight colleagues, as we saw in the Republican debate, or with one person.

But you know what, I think Mitt Romney's answers will get him -- land him in hot water. His response on taxes. Even, you know, not accurately telling the American people how many people are unemployed. His own health care plan. So --

MALVEAUX: So, Donna, why do you think it is that the president actually addressed a lot of those things? Why didn't the president? Because there were a number of misstatements. And I've been talking to -- to Democrats who say, you know what, we're really hoping those fact checkers will set the record straight. Why didn't the president do that, do you suppose, last night?

BRAZILE: You know, Suzanne, I think only the president can answer that question. And no one has given me any information in terms of why the president left so much on the floor last night. Maybe the president decided this was a moment to talk to the American people and not, you know, pick up the same mud that Mitt Romney's been throwing and muddy up the game. I don't know what the ultimate strategy was.

I know Democrats, this morning, are waking up -- you know, they went to bed upset and a lot of democrats woke up angry this morning. Angry that the president didn't finish the job. There was a lot of blood in the water. This could have been a moment when President Obama would have finished the job because conservatives were upset with Mitt Romney, the Republicans were upset with Mitt Romney. We know independents didn't care for Mitt Romney. And last night President Obama gave him, you know, some much needed life support.

MALVEAUX: So, Ana, let's talk about that life --

BRAZILE: But you know what, it's not over.

MALVEAUX: Oh, of course. No, no, it's not over at all. We got two more debates and, obviously, a vice presidential debate as well.

Ana, Romney actually talked a lot about jobs. He kept going back to it. He was very, very focused here and he accused the president of killing jobs. It didn't even matter what the subject was, he kept bringing it back to jobs. Was there anything that you felt that the president needed to focus on, that he could have made some more inroads?

NAVARRO: He needed to focus, period, Suzanne. He just was unfocused. He wasn't quite there. You know, he -- why didn't he bring up all the -- why didn't he correct the things he felt he need correcting? Because he was slow-footed. Why didn't he focus on one or two or three of his big achievements? Because he was slow-footed. He just wasn't at the top of his game. And I think Mitt Romney took advantage of that and, you know, we saw him even dominate the debate format and really just be head and shoulders above President Obama yesterday, when everybody expected the opposite.

The good news I have for my Democrat friends is that, now, look, I think now the debate expectation games has turned upside down, and people are going to be expecting Mitt Romney to do very well and replicate his performance from last night. And so Barack Obama, you know, if he just basically shows up and looks at Mitt Romney, that might in itself win the debate.

MALVEAUX: All right. Well, we're going to have to leave it there. I don't think Romney scored any points --

BRAZILE: Can I -- can I give a plug for Big Bird, though? Big Bird. Don't do away with Big Bird.

MALVEAUX: I was going to bring up Big Bird, Donna. I was going to bring up Big Bird.

BRAZILE: We can close some tax loophole, but don't give up Big Bird. Big Bird has entertained many of children and adults. So I am a Big Bird fan.

NAVARRO: I am a Big Bird -- I am a Big Bird loving Republican as well, Donna.

MALVEAUX: All right. Big Bird --

BRAZILE: I'm going to wear yellow for Big Bird.

MALVEAUX: Big Bird is the winner.

BRAZILE: Yes.

MALVEAUX: Big Bird is the winner today. Obviously we're going to be watching the debate. And if you added your voice to the online conversation during this debate, certainly tons, millions of people did last night. I mean it was unbelievable. I was on Twitter. Millions of people on Twitter. They actually released a traffic report declaring that last night's debate was the most tweeted about event in American political history. We're talking about ten million messages that crisscrossed the Twitter-verse during those 90 minutes. Most users, well, they thought the debate was kind of boring. Here's a few that stood out to us.

This one, @AreYouItalian wrote, "The debates in my house are much louder."

This one from blogger Lina Sandstrom: "Romney has a bigger U.S. flag pin than Obama. The debate is over?"

And standup comedian Doug Benson wrote this as the debate wrapped up, "14 minutes until we can all go back to preferring the candidate we liked when the debate started."

Remember, if you missed it last night and, of course, you want to see the whole thing for yourself, we're going to be airing the entire debate, 1:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

And the day after what many in his own party are calling a very disappointing debate performance, the president is now -- he's back out on the trail, trying to get his mojo back. We're going to take you live to Denver.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Four years ago I said that I'm not a perfect man and I wouldn't be a perfect president. And that's probably a promise that Governor Romney thinks I've kept. But I also promised that I'd fight every single day on behalf of the American people and the middle class and all those who are striving to get into the middle class. I've kept that promise. And if you'll vote for me, then I promise I'll fight just as hard in the second term.

ROMNEY: There's no question in my mind that, if the president were to be re-elected, you'll continue to see a middle class squeeze with incomes going down and prices going up.

I'll get incomes up again. You see chronic unemployment. We've had 43 straight months with unemployment above 8 percent. If I'm president, I will create -- help create 12 million new jobs in this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Those were the closing statements from last night's debate.

Now, both candidates are back on the campaign trail today. A re- energized Mitt Romney is at a rally with his running mate, Paul Ryan. President Obama's campaign event is getting underway right now. You're seeing live pictures there in Denver. Expect the president to start speaking in a minute. As soon as he starts, of course, we'll bring that to you.

Jessica Yellin is at that event, as well, and, Jessica, we've heard a lot of spin. We heard it late last night. We heard it early into the morning.

Is there a point now where the Obama campaign, the surrogates, the supporters who you're talking to are acknowledging that the president needs to do better, he needs to move on, he needs to make up for what happened last night?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No one who's officially with the campaign will say that, Suzanne, but I am talking to Democrats who definitely are agreeing with that, as I'm sure you are.

What we hear from the campaign is that they're turning the attack to Mitt Romney, arguing that the governor was not fully truthful and I would expect that we'll see in the coming days and weeks that the campaign will take on some of the claims that went unanswered last night by the president. But it doesn't resolve the question, why didn't the president answer them himself in the debate?

I think that goes to maybe questions about his debate preparation, their strategy and there might be changes ahead. I wouldn't be surprised if there would be, Suzanne, and we might see a different man come on the stage when the president faces Mitt Romney again two weeks from now.

MALVEAUX: Are you talking about his debate partner perhaps or are you talking about other people who are behind the scenes?

YELLIN: No, no. No, I don't mean changes in individuals. I mean, the general focus from the team was that the -- the general focus and the idea was that the president should communicate with voters directly at home, not with the people, as they say, in the room. That the president also should not really be on the attack because swing voters don't like to see that kind of combat from politicians. They're sick of it.

But in a debate format, one has to engage to seem present and to seem proud of one's accomplishments and to defend one's record and, if the president didn't do those things aggressively last night, he's received a lot of criticism from it, not just from the pundit class, but it seems from the polling so far from some viewers, as well. And so I wouldn't be surprised if he modulates his performance. He's a very competitive guy. I bet he'll come in with a different game next time.

MALVEAUX: All right, Jessica Yellin. Thank you so much, Jessica. We're about to replay last night's debate in its entirety. That is at 1:00 p.m. Eastern. You're going to see Mitt Romney challenge the president's policies, but he also took a swing at Big Bird. I'm not kidding you, good old Big Bird from "Sesame Street." You're going to hear that.

The Big Bird's boss, of course, has something to say about it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Mitt Romney may have faired well in most opinion polls, but we're pretty sure, guarantee it, he's not popular among enormous yellow birds who know the alphabet.

That is right. Romney put America's most beloved bird on the chopping block last night, saying that public broadcasting would get no more government subsidies in his administration.

Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I'm going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I'm going to stop other things. I like PBS. I love Big Bird. Actually like you, too, but I'm not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: So Twitter-verse blew up. Facebook, as well. Mentions of the word "Big Bird" on Facebook soared by 800,000 percent. We're not exaggerating. Read these here. Some of our favorite Big Bird tweets.

@MysteryMaiden wrote, "I think Big Bird would be OK. It's Snuffy I'm worried about. He wouldn't last two seconds on the street, #SaveBigBird."

This new account was created during the debate. @FiredBigBird wrote, "If you don't vote Obama, Mitt Romney is going to be eating me by the end of November. Show your support, #BigBird2012."

Also, this one from @FiredBigBird, "Somewhere Paul Ryan is kicking over trash cans in hopes of smoking out Oscar the Grouch."

Ah, people are clearly having a good time on Twitter, but the Big Bird comment did strike a nerve. The bird was mentioned online more times than taxes, Medicare, and education.

And also Big Bird, the woman who runs "Sesame Street" says, don't worry about it. Big Bird and his TV friends are not going anywhere no matter who's in the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHERRIE WESTIN, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT AND CHIEF MARKETING OFFICER, SESAME WORKSHOP: The Sesame Workshop receives very, very little funding from PBS, so we are able to raise our funding through philanthropic, through our licensed product, which goes back into the educational programming, through corporate underwriting and sponsorship.

So, quite frankly, it's -- you know, you can debate whether or not there should be funding of public broadcasting, but when they always sort of tout out Big Bird and say we're going to kill Big Bird, that actually is misleading because Sesame Street will be here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Big Bird lives no matter what?

WESTIN: Big Bird lives on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: All right, Big Bird lives on.

We're waiting to hear from the president, live from the campaign trail out at Denver. We'll bring that to you live. Remember, also, if you missed the debate last night, and you want to see the whole thing, we're going to be airing the entire first presidential debate. That's at 1:00 Eastern right here on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Eleven percent of all voters say the past election came out strongly for Obama. Recent numbers show Latinos still favor the president, but they want to hear more about the issues that are most important to them. They don't want their vote taken for granted.

Miguel Marquez has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Out of the shadows wanting their voices heard, their concerns on the agenda.

Tell me why you're here tonight.

IMALDA, IMMIGRATION POLICY PROTESTER: We're here asking both of the candidates to look at immigration in a more humane sense because none of them are doing so.

MARQUEZ: As the debate began, Latino students hoped to hear something that spoke to them. They never got it.

MARISSA ARMAS, STUDENT: I don't know. They haven't really hit on too many issues that I'm passionate about, so I'm still waiting to hear.

MARQUEZ: What are you passionate about?

ARMAS: I would definitely say immigration, education.

MARQUEZ: With the president who won 61 percent of Colorado's Latino votes in 2008, that same energy for many Latinos just isn't there. MARK ANTHONY MONTOYA, ACTIVIST: Four years ago Barack Obama, I had his back. He very much spoke to me, but now I'm hearing the same rhetoric that I heard four years ago.

MARQUEZ: Still, there are 400,000 Latino votes in play across the state, both sides courting them heavily.

OBAMA (via telephone): Hello, Fernando.

FERNANDO SERGIO, RADIO HOST, KBNO: Mr. President, how are you?

MARQUEZ: That's President Obama speaking to KBNO's Fernando Sergio last May. He hosts a radio show reaching Latinos across the state.

And you find yourself in the middle of presidential politics. Tell me about that.

SERGIO: You know, I think it underlines the importance of the Hispanic vote. I think that's what it is.

And for the president of the United States, the commander-in-chief, to pick up the phone and call me, call my show, talk to my listeners, it shows that.

MARQUEZ: As for Governor Romney, everyone but the candidate himself so far has been on the show.

With the margin of victory here expected to be tiny, both sides want to win over businessmen like Sergio Evangelista.

We met in May. You were an undecided voter then. And today?

SERGIO EVANGELISTA, STORE OWNER: Still are.

MARQUEZ: How is that possible?

EVANGELISTA: Well, I haven't heard from any of the candidates anything that would make me choose one of them right now.

MARQUEZ: Evangelista doesn't believe either candidate can do much to improve the economy, but he is waiting for one of them to say something concrete about how they'll fix immigration.

EVANGELISTA: Well, I have friends and I have family members that are not legally here in the country and there is no solution in sight.

MARQUEZ: Two more presidential debates to go, Latinos here will be watching closely.

Miguel Marquez, CNN, Denver.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: The number of potential Latino voters growing by 50,000 every month. It is a voting bloc that could have a major impact on the presidential election. Join CNN for a closer look at the fight to win the Latino vote. "LATINO IN AMERICA: COURTING THEIR VOTE", 8:00 Eastern Sunday on CNN.

It was a big night for Mitt Romney, but was it enough to actually move the polls. We're going to take a look at what voters thought about this debate by the numbers.

President Obama about to make his pitch to voters in Denver. Going to bring that to you, live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: President Obama live in Denver, Sloan Park. Let's listen in.

OBAMA: ... was not the real Mitt Romney because he seems to be doing just fine with his current account.

So, you see, the man on stage last night, he does not want to be held accountable for the real Mitt Romney's decisions and what he's been saying for the last year and that's because he knows full well that we don't want what he's been selling for the last we're. So Governor Romney may dance around his positions, but if you want to be president, you owe the American people the truth.

Here's the truth. Governor Romney cannot pay for his $5 trillion tax plan without blowing up the deficit or sticking it to the middle class. That's the math. We can't afford to go down that road again. We can't afford another round of budget-busting tax cuts for the wealthy. We can't afford to gut our investments in education or clean energy or research and technology. We can't afford to roll back regulations on Wall Street or on big oil companies or insurance companies. We cannot afford to double-down on the same top-down economic policies that got us into this mess. That is not a plan to create jobs. That is not a plan to grow the economy. That is not change. That is a relapse.

We don't want to go back there. We've tried, it didn't work and we are not going back. We are going forward.

Now, I've got a different view about how we create jobs and prosperity. This government doesn't succeed when we only see the rich getting richer. We succeed when the middle class gets bigger. We grow our economy not from the top down, but from the middle out. We don't believe that anybody is entitled to success in this country, but we do believe in something called opportunity. We believe in a country where hard work pays off and where responsibility is rewarded and everybody's getting a fair shot and everybody's doing their fair share and everybody plays by the same rules.

That's the country we believe in. That's what I'm fighting for. That's why I'm running for a second term for president of the United States and that's why I want your vote.

What I talked about last night was a new economic patriotism, a patriotism that's rooted in the belief that our economy begins with a strong, thriving middle class. That means we export more jobs and we outsource -- export more products and we outsource fewer jobs. You know, over the last three years, we came together to reinvent a dying auto industry that's back on top of the world. We've created more than half a million new manufacturing jobs. And so now you've got a choice. We can keep giving tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas or we can start rewarding companies that are opening new plants and training new workers and creating new jobs right here in the United States of America. That's what we're looking for. We can help big factories and small businesses double their exports and create a million new manufacturing jobs over the next four years. You can make that happen.

I want to control more of our own energy. You know, after 30 years of inaction, we raised fuel standards so that, by the middle of the next decade, your cars and trucks will be going twice as far on a gallon of gas. We've doubled the amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like wind and solar and thousands of Americans have jobs today building wind turbines and long-lasting batteries. The United States of America today is less dependent on foreign oil than any time in nearly two decades.

So now you've got a choice between a plan that reverses this progress or one that builds on it. You know, last night, my opponent says he refuses to close the loophole that gives big oil companies $4 billion in taxpayer subsidies every year. Now we've got a better plan where we keep investing in wind and solar and clean coal and the good jobs that come with that, where farmers and scientists harness new biofuels to power our cars and our trucks, where construction workers are retro-fitting homes and factories so they waste less energy and we can develop 100-year supply of natural gas that creates hundreds of thousands of jobs and, by the way, we can cut our oil imports in half by 2020.

That will be good for our economy. That will be good for our environment. That will be good for Colorado. That will be good for America. That's what we're fighting for. That's why I am running for a second term as president of the United States.

I want to give more Americans the chance to learn the skills they need to compete. I talked last night about how education was the gateway of opportunity for me and Michelle, for so many of you. It's a gateway for a middle-class life. And, today, millions of students are paying less for college because we took on a system that was wasting billions of taxpayer dollars on bankers and lenders.

And so now you've got a choice. We can gut education to pay for more tax breaks for the wealthy or we can decide that, in the United States of America, no child should have her dream deferred because of an overcrowded classroom. No family should have to set aside a college acceptance letter because they don't have the money. No company should have to look for workers in China because they couldn't find any with the right skills here in the United States.

So we're going to recruit 100,000 new math and science teachers and we're going to improve early-childhood education and we're going to create two million more slots in community colleges so that workers can get trained for the jobs that are out there right now. And we are going to continue to do everything we need to do to cut the growth of tuition costs because every young person in America should have the opportunity to go to college without being loaded up with hundreds -- with tens of thousands of dollars worth of debt.

MALVEAUX: President Obama is speaking, probably for the first time since what many saw as a disastrous debate last night.

We're going to be following the president today and, also tomorrow, it's going to be another huge day for politics. It's when the latest jobs numbers come out.

Our own Ali Velshi is giving us an advance look at how crucial the figures could be in the presidential race.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Under the president's policies, middle-income Americans have been buried. They're just being crushed. Middle-income Americans have seen their income come down by $4,300. This is a tax, in and of itself. I'll call it the economy tax. It's been crushing.

OBAMA: Let's talk about taxes because I think it's instructive. Now, four years ago when I stood on this stage, I said that I would cut taxes for middle-class families and that's exactly what I did. We cut taxes for middle-class families by about $3,600 and the reason is because I believe that we do best when the middle class is doing well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: That was just a couple of the highlights from last night's presidential debate.

We're going to do more than just play sound bites. We're actually going to replay the entire debate next hour of CNN NEWSROOM, so you can judge for yourself just how the candidates performed.

So which candidate would do a better job of growing a sluggish economy? Voters, they're looking for answers. In last night's debate, did they actually even get them?

We're going to bring in our CNN chief business correspondent, Ali Velshi and CNN contributor, John Avlon. Good to see you guys both.

Really, an incredible debate, Ali, I want to start off with you first.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

MALVEAUX: Because one of the things that Mitt Romney was very consistent on, the messaging, if you will, it didn't matter what he was asked, he always brought it back to jobs.

VELSHI: Yes. Yes.

MALVEAUX: He accused the president of killing jobs and he said he would create jobs. What was his main argument? How would he do that?

VELSHI: Well, it's a -- I'm glad we're replaying it because it's worth watching again to sort of see what you missed.

His main argument is that if you lower taxes, as he has said he would, both on corporations and on individuals across the board, what you'll do is you'll end up with people paying lower taxes and they'll -- but they'll have more income. They'll be more people with jobs. So even though the percentage of their income that they pay is lower, they'll generate more money for the government and they'll generate more business. That's the idea that there will be economic growth.

The problem with his argument is that we have had relatively low taxes for a long time. We have not seen corporate tax cuts in a very long time. So we're not quite sure how businesses, for instance, would react to lower taxes. We're not even sure how customers -- how consumers would react to lower taxes. But his argument is that your way isn't working, Barack Obama. Let's try our way where we give people more money, put more money into their pockets and see if it stimulates the economy.

MALVEAUX: John, I want to bring you in here on this point.

One of the things that he talked about, that Mitt Romney kept hammering, is that he was talking about the middle class in particular, and he was saying, you know what, gas prices are up, food prices are up, a lot of people are unemployed. How did the president frame his argument here in dealing with the state of the middle class and what he would do to lift the middle class?

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: The president's essential argument was that the Romney plan, as Ali just laid out, essentially is a throwback to the Bush era and before that got us into this mess, to use a phrase he might say, and to make a case that instead we should be making longer-term investments and that simply cutting taxes isn't going to generate the kind of economic growth for the middle class that we need. And indeed we've seen this middle class squeeze for a long time, for more than a decade now, especially in the wake of the Bush tax cuts.

So that really was the argument the president was trying to make, drawing a contrast between the two plans. But he did it in a professional, almost listless way. And that's what led, I think, to a lot of the conventional wisdom around the debate today.

MALVEAUX: And, Ali, one of the figures that came up in this debate was Donald Trump. I was actually kind of surprised that it was the president himself who brought up Donald Trump.

VELSHI: Who brought up -- yes.

MALVEAUX: Not one of his favorite people.

VELSHI: Right.

MALVEAUX: But there was this case about, what is a small business? VELSHI: Yes.

MALVEAUX: How do you define that? What was the bottom line to that -- the point they were trying to make?

VELSHI: So the bottom line is that a -- because of the tax -- the way taxes are structured in this country, in other countries, if you're not really a corporation and you don't need to be, you don't incorporate. In this country, you can incorporate, but run a lot of your profits -- your profits through to your personal taxes.

The larger point, not even having to do with Donald Trump, is that there are a lot of people who are businesses in this country who are not necessarily going to benefit from a tax cut. That's the point the president was trying to make. And Mitt Romney took that and said, there are lots of people who are small businesses who do employ people. And, in fact, they employ a lot of the new -- they are responsible for a lot of the new growth in employment in this country.

So the issue is, do you cut taxes for small businesses. And if you do, will they reinvest that in employing people? A lot of our history indicates to us that that's not necessarily the case. They will take it as profits. They will buy back shares. They will do all sorts of things that will not necessarily result in employment.

Again, this is an unknowable. It's a hard -- it's a hard thing to prove, true or not true. What it did is illustrate the difference between President Obama's philosophy on business and Mitt Romney's.

MALVEAUX: Right. All right, we're going to have both of you guys after this quick break.

Don't forget, you wanted to watch the whole thing? We're going to be airing the entire debate. That is at the top of the hour right here on CNN.

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MALVEAUX: Did you miss any or all of last night's debate. You don't have to worry about that. CNN is going to replay the debate in its entirety at 1:00 p.m. Eastern, just minutes from now. We're going to look ahead with Ali Velshi and John Avlon.

First of all, John, I want to talk with you a little bit about tomorrow. Tomorrow you've got the jobs reports that is coming out. Could be a game-changer in the election. Are people going to be watching for that number and what could it possibly indicate for the president?

AVLON: Well, look, I mean the jobs numbers are the symbol of the key of this election, which is the economy, jobs. You hear it again and again. Swing voters in particular, it's issue number one. So this is an important talisman. We've seen the rate drop to 8.1 percent, but this has been a real source of frustration for the president. And if the jobs number were to go up, that would compound a lot of the narratives that Mitt Romney was saying yesterday, which is that the Obama plan hasn't been working. People aren't working.

On the other hand, if the unemployment rate goes down, that's a good narrative for the president. There's been some good news in housing, for example. So the unemployment number really has this talismanic importance. We're going to have this number tomorrow and then we're going to have one number just days before the election itself. I believe the date's November 2nd. And that is really going to be key in crystallizing people's psychology as they go into the voting booth.

MALVEAUX: So, yes --

VELSHI: John and I are going to have a better answer for you in the coming weeks because we're both heading out into the country on October 22nd. We're going to get on the bus, the CNN Express, and drive around. And the issue is, you feel better or worse about the economy, largely based on your personal situation right now. For some people it is very clear that our economy right now is substantially better than it was four years ago. We have created as many jobs as we have lost. In fact, we've exceeded that by about 125,000 jobs. But if you lost your job in the middle of 2009 --

MALVEAUX: Right.

VELSHI: And you aren't employed or you lost your job in the last year, it's horrible. So John's right, it is the talisman of the economy. It's the most important leg of the three-legged stool of the economy. The other one being your investments and your property. Everybody needs an income.

MALVEAUX: Do people pay attention to the numbers when they think about, OK, here are the stats?

VELSHI: Yes.

MALVEAUX: You know, 8 percent unemployment over 43 months.

VELSHI: Yes. It is going to consumer confidence.

MALVEAUX: It's the longest than any other president. But does it mean I'm feeling it or I'm not feeling it?

VELSHI: It makes you feel like it's going to get better or it's going to get worse. That's the issue. If we are creating a lot of jobs, have you some sense that whether you're employed or unemployed, things will get better for you. If you're employed, you can command a better salary. If you're unemployed, it could get worse.

That's why -- that's why it's important to sentiment. It really makes you believe. So the decision to buy that washing machine or the car or that house has a lot to do with what that number will be on Friday. If you think this economy is plugging along, you'll do that. This has less to do with whether -- who you vote for, for president, and more to do with what you do with your money. And that's why it's important.

MALVEAUX: John, do people really pay attention to that number, though? I mean we pay attention to it. We make a big deal about it. But, you know, if you're a voter out there, are you really paying attention? Are you going to listen to the facts and figures in just the weeks ahead of the election?

VELSHI: John, my salary depends on this, so say yes.

AVLON: I -- I know. Without raining on Ali's parade, I don't think most voters actually organize their calendar around the -- you know, the first Friday of a month. But it is awfully important, to Ali's point. It does set the psychology. And, remember, in the larger perspective of the politics of this election, Obama's poll numbers today, President Obama's poll numbers, have been defying gravity. To have an 8.1 percent unemployment rate and an incumbent leading in many polls, we haven't seen anything like that since Franklin Roosevelt in 1936.

The key thing also, as Ali said, is the trend, though. Is the trend. Are we moving out of recession? Are we moving towards more job growth. And the president can point to that. But that 8 percent number is a major weight that he has really been defiling gravity on today.

MALVEAUX: And economic growth is pretty anemic, though, because you're talking about 1.3 percent.

VELSHI: Sure.

MALVEAUX: I mean he -- he's really not that much in a period of growth at this point.

VELSHI: Not at all. That's very worrisome to have economic growth.

MALVEAUX: Can he actually even say that?

VELSHI: Well, not only that, but Europe's doing nothing. China is slowing down. So who exactly is going to generate growth in this world when we're all slowing down. And that's the problem, because Mitt Romney said again last night that he thinks he can create 12 million jobs in three year. That's three million a year, 250,000 a month. We've only done this three times in our history. One was during World War II. So let's entirely discount that. Take the last two. One was under Reagan, when economic growth was 4.5 or 4.8 percent. The other one was under Clinton, where it was 4.3 percent. You don't take a 1.3 percent economy, which is barely scraping by, and suggest that you're all of a sudden going to increase job growth by 50 percent.

So both of them aren't really telling you the truth on that. But, you know, it's a nice message to sell sunshine in America for the future. The reality isn't that good. If you get out there and you say, hey, this is tough times, it's a big haul, it doesn't sell.

MALVEAUX: All right. Got to leave it there. We're running out of time. Thank you, of course, Ali and John.

If you front of to watch "YOUR MONEY" with Ali Velshi, it's Saturday, 1:00 p.m. Eastern, Sunday at 3:00 p.m. Eastern. And if you missed the debate last night, want to see the whole thing for yourself, we're going to be airing the entire debate at the top of the hour right here on CNN.

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MALVEAUX: We told you about how Twitter exploded last night during the debate. Well, Google was buzzing too. Top searchers during the debate had to do with some of the wonkier topics that the candidates brought up. So, what was it?

Number one was Simpson-Bowles. That is short-hand for the congressional committee studying the debt crisis. Number two, Dodd Frank. Another insider term that refers to the financial regulatory law that President Obama signed in 2010. Number three, easy enough, who is winning the debate. And number four, Big Bird. Yes, touched off, of course, by Mitt Romney's pledge to pull federal subsidies for public television.

Google also was busy fielding questions about the candidates. People wanted to know about the president's health care overhaul known as Obamacare, as well as the personal stats. And as for Romney, his tax cut proposal got lots of hits, as did his bio, and, yet again, Big Bird.

Everyone, of course, is talking about the debate. They're also saying that there was a commanding performance by Mitt Romney. Of course, instead of just bringing you the highlights, the commentary, the spin, we're actually going to replay the entire debate from start to finish. We're not talking about talking points. We are talking about the candidates themselves in their own words.

So, if you missed it, if you'd like to watch it again, decide, see for yourself. Here's the first presidential debate between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

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(FIRST PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE REPLAY BEGINS)