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Debate wrap: Substance

National Journal’s Tankersley : “Apparently Mitt Romney likes government regulation, loves Medicare the way it is, agrees fairly regularly with President Obama, and does not, in fact, want to cut taxes very much. Those are gross simplifications of Romney’s economic platform, and ones very much at odds with the antitax, antiregulation, pro-entitlement-reform campaign the former Massachusetts governor has waged for more than a year. But if you were tuning into the presidential race for the first time on Wednesday night, you’d be forgiven if you thought the simplifications were actually the crux of Romney’s plan for the country.”

Bloomberg with a reality check on Romney’s claim that he’s not proposing $5 trillion in tax breaks: “Romney has proposed reducing income tax rates by 20 percent and eliminating the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax. He says his plan would boost growth, while avoiding an expansion of the federal budget deficit because he would curtail deductions, exemptions and credits. He also says there are enough tax breaks for top earners that he would eliminate to avoid shifting the burden to the middle class.

“The Facts: Romney’s tax plan can’t add up under congressional budget-scoring rules that don’t let him assume that economic growth will generate higher tax revenue. … Congressional budget-scoring rules are conservative about anticipated growth from tax cuts because economists disagree over how much they spur the economy. If Romney’s plan goes to Congress, where those rules apply, it wouldn’t add up.”

Kenneth Thomas, a professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis: Seriously, I could just re-post my February 27th post word for word tonight and it would be just as true as it was then. The Romney tax plan blows a $5 trillion hole in the budget via tax reductions and he still hasn't told us anything about the tax breaks he would get rid of to pay for it, which he has to do because he calls it revenue neutral, as he did again in tonight's debate.”

A list of fact checks from NBC from taxes and the deficit to Medicare and Social Security.

AP’s Pace: “Americans demanded details and, boy, did they get them. … The wonkish policy debate was a stark contrast to the monthslong campaign, filled with broad-brush and harsh attacks by the two candidates on one another. And it was a clear appeal to the small sliver of undecided voters, both independents and unaffected voters in each party, who are less partisan and more interested in hearing solutions.”

On those details and “facts,” David Gergen said last night Romney “drove the debate. I sensed the president had never been talked to like this over the last four years… I think he was so surprised that he thought Romney was just sort of flat-out lying – that he never proposed a 20 percent tax cut. You know, we’ve been hearing that a lot, and I think that sort of threw him off his game.”

USA Today: “Obama again and again raised questions about whether Romney's numbers added up and if his policies would work, saying his tax proposals would explode the deficit and benefit the wealthy. When Romney disputed that, saying he wouldn't reduce the tax burden on the wealthy or approve tax cuts that increased the deficit, the president expressed incredulity. ‘Now four weeks before the election, he is saying his big, bold plan is: Never mind.’”

Taegan Goddard: “Romney's major misstep in this debate -- and in this campaign -- was being factually untrue about his plans and denying his own record. But Obama didn't push back very hard at all.”

The Wall Street Journal: “In the debate, Mr. Romney inched toward the political center, offering a stark break from the red meat he had offered conservative voters in the GOP primaries and, at times, in the general election. He sought to soften his image after months of the Obama campaign casting him as a sharply partisan figure with little regard for the American middle class.”

USA Today: “Claim: Obama said the U.S. economy has created 5 million private-sector jobs the past 30 months. Facts: After the economy plummeted in late 2007 and throughout 2009, the United States has gained 4.6 million private-sector jobs since the labor market bottomed in February 2010 — or 5.1 million under preliminary revisions released last week that are not part of the official tally by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Still, that’s weak by historical standards. Under President George W. Bush, the private sector also added 5 million jobs in the 30 months after employment hit bottom following the 2001 downturn, and the pace of private-sector gains in the previous two recoveries was far stronger.”

Other USA Today’s fact checks.