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Filler: Barack Obama and Mitt Romney disagree on how to advance women in the workplace

President Barack Obama listens as Republican presidential nominee

President Barack Obama listens as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney speaks during the second presidential debate at Hofstra University. (Oct. 16, 2012) Credit: AP

And now a narrower question: How will we make wages equal for men and women?

I've always thought this was a more complex question than people make it out to be. I certainly support equal pay for equal work, but I also know there are a lot of cases where it is difficult to define equal work. It can't just be based on job title, or even seniority.

Both candidates are doing pretty well with this question, and why not? Few sane people really support anyone, for any reason, getting paid less for equal work.

Mitt Romney says you improve the lives and pay of women by improving the economy and creating jobs.

Barack Obama says Romney won't even say whether he supports the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

This is easily the calmest, wonkiest and least stirring question of the debate thus far, after the fireworks we kicked off with.

Obama has segued into a pro-contraception rant, which is an odd pivot. He is, though, making the point that there are a lot of externalities that hold women back in the workforce, and that's true, and kind of the point I was making up above. They are burdened with childcare, parent care, and a dozen other issues men often don't deal with as much. But that's not the employer's fault.

And now a great question for Romney, on how he differentiates himself from George W. Bush and his policies.

But before we can get an answer, there's an argument over time, and a Romney return to an argument over contraception.

And on to Bush. "President Bush and I are different people."

True, and ...

The difference, Romney says, is the five-point plan to create 12 million jobs. And his plan to balance the budget. And his plan for energy independence.

Which are good plans, if you can enact them, and would be a departure from the Bush years. I have no idea if he's going to enact them, but it would be awesome.

"My priority is jobs. I know how to make that happen," Romney says. And the subtext is, if he gets elected, he'll share the secrets with us.

Obama responds, and this is a softball for him, one he should hit out of the park. All he has to do is hammer the easily hammerable Bush policies. But he's kind of flubbing now, getting wonky, stuttering, talking about international trade deals. He's missing a huge opportunity, shades of the first debate.

Although he gets strong again pointing out the ways in which Romney would be worse than Bush. He says Bush supported immigration reform, not "self-deportation." Bush never suggested Medicare vouchers. And Bush did not suggest cutting government funds for Planned Parenthood.