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Hankygate: Did Romney use cheat notes in the debate?
The liberal blogosphere latches onto a video showing Mitt Romney putting something flat and white onto his podium before he debates President Obama. A cheat sheet, or just a hanky?
A video screen grab from the start of the first presidential debate shows Mitt Romney placing a flat, white object, pulled from his pants pocket, onto his podium.
A video screen grab from the start of the first presidential debate shows Mitt Romney placing a flat, white object, pulled from his pants pocket, onto his podium.
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T

he video: A handful of liberal bloggers think they've found a way to take Mitt Romney down a notch after his big debate win over President Obama. They're pointing to a clip in which Romney, after greeting Obama at the showdown's start, rapidly pulls something flat and white from his pocket and places it on his podium (see the slo-mo video below). Gotcha? Romney critics say it sure looks like he used a cheat sheet to help him hit his prepared points. If so, he might have broken the rules. The Commission on Presidential Debates hasn't issued new guidelines for the 2012 contests, but it typically forbids the use of "props, notes, charts, diagrams," or anything else a candidate could use as a crutch. Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul says the cheat-sheet theorists are really reaching. The item in Romney's hand, she says, was a handkerchief.

The reaction: It appears poor Mitt has been busted, says John Aravosis at America Blog. "Notes? A hanky?" Romney's lightning-quick stashing of the mystery object "sure seems sleight-of-handish for a hanky." And he appears to unfold it over the notepad they gave him — "why would he unfold a handkerchief"? Simmer down, says Elizabeth Flock at U.S. News & World Report. Later in the debate, Romney picks up the item again to wipe his face, and it's "clearly a handkerchief this time." I dunno, says Josh Voorhees at Slate, "If you squint really hard," this "looks kind of like it could be a piece of paper, which could have had notes on it" — but this "less-than-damning" clip proves nothing except that Obama fans are "still trying to make sense" of what happened to him on that debate stage. Take a look at the video that launched "hankygate":

Read more political coverage at The Week's 2012 Election Center.

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