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Beware the "fiscal cliff."

That's the warning that's been sounded by politicians, the media, and taxpayers since summer, gaining full force the moment President Barack Obama won re-election. While the term has only recently become part of the national vernacular, the build-up to this pivotal economic decision has been building for many years. The Democrats have refused to cut spending entitlements and Obama wants to raise taxes on the top income brackets. The Republicans, led by conservative super-lobbyist Grover Norquist, refuse to raise taxes and are opposed to losing currently implemented tax breaks. Also at stake is the defense budget that Dems want to scale back with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ending while Republicans are pushing back on any additional defense cuts.

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Kerry Enger of Madison said he would never have been able to get his cancer under control if not for Obama's policies on health care.
Photo by Natasha Korecki

MADISON, WISC. -- Some 18,000 people filled the center of downtown Madison on Monday to listen to President Obama on the eve of a deadlocked election.

Though Madison leans hard left, there was mixed response to the president's presence in the swing state capital.

One irritated woman poked at a reporter's notebook after leaving Obama's remarks, apparently disappointed.
"Not one word about climate change!" she said and stormed off.
To Kerry Enger, seeing Obama in person meant something deeply personal to the 33 year old.
"His Affordable Care Act saved my life," said Enger, who said he has endured two bone marrow transplants and 26 months of chemotherapy. "I couldn't even walk a few months ago."
Enger, who has Multiple Myeloma, said he lost his job because of his severe health issues and was soon paying $873 a month for health care. He said he lost his house, lost his 401 (k) and his life savings to pay his medical costs.
He said the health care act allowed him to get insurance regardless of his having a preexisting condition.
Mitt Romney and congressional Republicans have blasted so-called "Obamacare," vowed to repeal it and said that the president carelessly drove up the deficit because he was more concerned with his legacy than with boosting the economy.

photo-7.JPG William Schuth, a vet, said he won't vote for Obama because of his drone strikes. Schuth will cast a vote for the Green Party.

Some carried some frustration with Obama for not visiting Madison when it was in the midst of an acrimonious union battle versus the governor, something that eventually led to a bitter recall election that Gov. Scott Walker survived.
"I know he wants us to have his back. He didn't have ours," said William Schuth, 30. "He was silent on it."
Schuth and his wife, Joanna, both 30, said they do back some of Obama's plans.
"I'm voting defensively because Mitt Romney as president could be devastation for me and my family."

Italy US Presidential_Newm.jpg
Two statuettes depicting President Barack Obama, left, and Republican rival Mitt Romney are backdropped by the Stars and Stripes in a shop which sells Christmas nativity figures in Naples, Italy, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, hours ahead of their third and final presidential debate in Boca Raton, Florida. (AP Photo/Salvatore Laporta)

After a whirlwind three weeks that's seen just about everything we thought we could see in an election, the two major party candidates for President of the United States - Democratic incumbent Barack Obama and GOP candidate Mitt Romney - hold their final debate of the election season tonight. Going into the first debate less than three weeks ago in Denver, Obama was poised for a runaway win barring any major speed bumps. But that's what happend in Denver when Obama put forth a listless, lackluster performance by the president plus a new populist approach from Romney turned things around and put the wind at Romney's back, changing the entire course of the race. A testy, fiery Vice President Joe Biden turned up in the VP debate against GOP nominee Paul Ryan. And last week, Romney and Obama engaged in a heated, electrice debate, the candidates stalking the stage, often circling one another as they unleashed attacks on the other.

Tonight's moderator, CBS' Bob Schieffer, has experience with debates, having moderated one in each of the last two presidential election, and has already announced his list of topics for tonight's debate, centered on foreign policy:

  • America's role in the world
  • Our longest war - Afghanistan and Pakistan
  • Red Lines - Israel and Iran
  • The Changing Middle East and the New Face of Terrorism - I
  • The Changing Middle East and the New Face of Terrorism - II
  • The Rise of China and Tomorrow's World

Tonight should be a lively debate and we've got our best columnists and pundits along to provide live commentary. Below you can find both live video via YouTube of the debate and, below that, the running commentary from the Sun-Times staff. Before we go live at 7:30 p.m. and throughout the debate, take some time to check out some of our other posts about the upcoming election and check out even more coverage at our Election Page.

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Mitt Romney and Barack Obama at last week's Alfred E. Smith dinner
Obama campaign rolls out new "Romnesia" stump speech
FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver on The Daily Show

President Obama broke out a new speech on the trail in Virginia Friday. Seems he's concerned for Mitt Romney's health.

Tackling what he says are inconsistencies in the Romney campaign, the president labeled it "Romnesia," ticking off one-by-one areas he believes the former governor has changed positions on. Calling it a pre-existing condition, Obama says Romnesia will be covered by Obamacare.

It seems the jokes were not exhausted on "The Daily Show" or the Albert E. Smith dinner yesterday.


Papa John's Pizza founder John Schnatter made a delivery on a shareholder call last week that has Stephen Colbert hotter than a pizza oven.

Schnatter, who happens to be a Mitt Romney supporter, says that the Affordable Health Care Act provisions that force him to make sure all his employees are insured will add an additional 11 to 14 cents to the cost of his company's pies.

"We're not supportive of Obamacare, like most businesses in our industry. But our business model and unit economics are about as ideal as you can get for a food company to absorb Obamacare," he said. "If Obamacare is in fact not repealed, we will find tactics to shallow out any Obamacare costs and core strategies to pass that cost onto consumers in order to protect our shareholders best interests," Schnatter vowed according to a report in Politico.