Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney answers a question as President...

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

Mitt Romney goes first on a question about what is going to happen with major tax deductions, like for mortgages and charitable donations,  as well as child tax credits.  It's a good one to ask Romney because he has a lot to explain about how he pays for his 20 percent across-the-board tax cut. He's very big on cutting taxes on interest, dividends and capital gains for the non-rich, which ... they don't have much of that, which is what makes them non-rich.

Obama is on very firm ground here. He's always been clear that he wants to get rid of the Bush tax cuts for people making more than $250,000, and not for anyone else.

The problem with this is it only raises $700 billion over the next 10 years, while letting all the Bush cuts expire would raise $4 trillion, which would actually help the deficit situation.

Obama is going after Romney on his personal tax rate (about 14 percent now) and Romney's belief that such a policy grows the economy. I'm not sure it's always fair to talk just rates. If you pay $3 million, you paid a lot, and that needs to be acknowledged.

Romney's tax plan, to bring rates down and pay for it by getting rid of deductions, still hasn't been explained very well, but he does do a good job of justifying it by explaining that it lowers rates on S corporations, small businesses taxed as individuals. I'm not sure we've had a robust discussion of whether that's a good idea, as a nation, but it might be.

But Obama says the tax changes Romney wants to make will cost $5 trillion, and military spending increases will cost another $2 trillion. And Romney won't explain how this will be revenue neutral. It's true, and it's the biggest hole in Romney's campaign, his lack of willingness or ability to explain this.

Obama is maintaining his fire, and Romney seems to have calmed a bit, but in a good way. He was nearly rabid a few minutes earlier.

Romney says of his federal budget plans, "Of course they add up." But he doesn't explain, he just attacks the deficits under Obama. Which is wise; Obama's record is his weak point.

Both are now talking over Crowley, and she's fighting back. It's a melee.

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