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What did we learn from Obama and Romney in the presidential debate? Not much

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Charles Dharapak/AP

(Read caption) President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney talk at the end of the first presidential debate in Denver, Wednesday. Both candidates recycled old lines and presented little new information, Gleckman writes.

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The breathlessly-hyped debate between President Obama and Governor Romney left me with an empty feeling. There were many words–oh, there were words– but even the most casual observer of the campaign has heard most of them before.

Yet when it comes to economic policy,  I learned almost nothing new about how either Romney or Obama would govern over the next four years. The president broke no new ground at all. The governor had a few new things to say, but in a way that tells us less, not more, about his agenda.

There were lots of recycled charges: Obama again insisting that the average middle-class family “would pay” $2,000 more under Romney’s tax plan as if that were his proposal. Romney blaming Obama for last year’s increases in private insurance premiums.  And there was plenty of wonky wandering into the weeds of legislation.

Btw, do either of these guys think the average voter has any idea what a Dodd-Frank is?

But for all that, neither candidate told us anything we did not already know about what he’d do as president over the next four years.  As far as I could tell, Obama did not advance the ball on a single proposal.  He said nothing that was not in his convention acceptance speech a month ago.

By contrast, Romney did say some new things. But they served to further obfuscate, rather than clarify, his real agenda.

For example, earlier this week, Romney floated the idea of capping tax deductions at $17,000 as a way to help pay for his promised 20 percent across-the-board rate cut and his proposed repeal of the estate tax and the Alternative Minimum Tax.

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