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THE DAY AFTER: President Obama and Mitt Romney went toe-to-toe (almost literally at one point) during last night's town hall debate. Both sides are still doing their best to spin things, but the consensus among the insta-polls and pundits was that Obama eked out a win thanks in large part to two things: 1) Just how low the president set the bar with his listless performance at the first debate in Denver, and 2) Romney's inability to score what most expected to be rather easy points on the topic of Benghazi.
WHEN CANDIDATES ATTACK: Slate's John Dickerson: Obama won Tuesday night’s slugfest, but Romney will live to fight another day.
BEFORE WE LOOK BACK: Let's look forward. The third and final presidential debate is less than a week away. The two men will square off next Monday at a debate on foreign policy in Boca Raton, Fla. The event is slated to follow the same format as the first debate, with the moderator focusing on facilitating a more free-wheeling back-and-forth than was on display during last night's more segmented town hall event. As you'll probably remember, the less-defined format wasn't without its flaws the first time around.
THE QUESTIONS: As selected by moderator Bob Schieffer, there will be one 15-minute segment on each of the following four topics: 1) America's role in the world; 2) Our longest war: Afghanistan and Pakistan; 3) Red Lines: Israel and Iran; and 4) the Rise of China and Tomorrow's World. And two separate 15-minute segments on: The Changing Middle East and the new Face of Terrorism.
WHAT THAT MEANS: Romney, Obama (and perhaps even the moderator) will have another chance to discuss the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and the White House's response to it.
ACTS OF TERROR OR AN ERROR? Slate's David Weigel: Republicans twist themselves in knots over the meaning of the word “terror”—and miss the point.
WE INTERRUPT OUR DEBATE COVERAGE: For this, via the Associated Press: "Federal authorities on Wednesday arrested a man they said was plotting to blow up the Federal Reserve building in Manhattan, just blocks from the World Trade Center site. Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, 21, was arrested in a sting operation Wednesday morning after he parked a van filled with what he believed were explosives outside the building and tried to detonate it in a suicide mission, authorities said."
AND THIS: The New York Times: "A week after the United States Anti-Doping Agency made public its evidence in a doping case against Lance Armstrong, saying he was at the center of an organized doping program on his Tour de France winning teams, Armstrong on Wednesday stepped down as chairman of Livestrong, his cancer foundation, the organization that inspired millions fighting the disease. The fallout from the antidoping agency’s report also prompted Nike, the company that stood by Armstrong through more than a decade’s worth of doping allegations, to terminate his contract on Wednesday."
AND, FINALLY, SOME GOOD NEWS: The Associated Press: "A teenage Pakistani girl shot in the head by the Taliban for promoting girls' education has responded well to treatment and impressed doctors with her strength, the British hospital where she was being treated said Tuesday. Experts are optimistic that 14-year-old Malala Yousufzai, who was airlifted Monday to Britain to receive specialized medical care, has a good chance of recovery because unlike adults, the brains of teenagers are still growing and can adapt to trauma better."
MORE FROM SLATE'S DEBATE COVERAGE:
The Slatest: The Town Hall Debate Was One Giant Rule Violation
CHECKING THE REST OF THE TRAPS—
Orlando Sentinel: "George Zimmerman's murder trial in the death of Trayvon Martin was set for June 10 during a hearing in court this morning. ... Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda said he expected jury selection would take longer than the trial itself."
Reuters: "Former Democratic Senator George McGovern, who lost to Richard Nixon in the 1972 presidential election, is 'no longer responsive' and is surrounded by family and friends at a hospice center in South Dakota, his family said on Wednesday. McGovern, 90, was admitted to hospice in Sioux Falls 'with a combination of medical conditions, due to age, that have worsened over recent months,' his family said in a statement."
NYT: "After a series of conflicting reports about whether vitamin pills can stave off chronic disease, researchers announced on Wednesday that a large clinical trial of nearly 15,000 older male physicians followed for more than a decade found that those taking a daily multivitamin experienced 8 percent fewer cancers than the subjects taking dummy pills."
We'll see you back here tomorrow. But until then, tell your friends to subscribe here, or simply forward the newsletter on and let them make up their own minds.