In Depth: Obama and Romney square off in second debate
Governor Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama met on Tuesday night for the second presidential debate at Hofstra
University in New York. With a first round win for Romney, and a questionable victor in the Vice Presidential Debate, pressure to perform was on the President.
Set in Town Hall style, community members and students posed personal concerns to each candidate. While the incumbent and GOP (Grand Old Party–Republican) nominee planned to pull no punches, neither did the audience members. The first question, coming from a university sophomore, voiced fear in graduating during the recession.
Winning the pre-debate coin toss, Romney was first to answer. Clearly wanting to exhaust his two-minute limit, the GOP-contender reminded listeners his preference for government grants for students. He also voiced his distaste for the Presidents “crushing” taxes on middle class families — a sore spot for the administration. A strong start for a surging candidate.
Obama, on the other hand, attempted a smooth start. Addressing the same question the President emphasized growing employment numbers and necessity to work together for economic success. But Obama focused more on Romney’s “let Detroit go bankrupt” gaffe and energy independence than an actual answer. A muddled first response that distressed, already worried, Democrats.
As the night wore on the President found his old charisma. Hitting the GOP nominee on his rather cryptic plan for government spending, extension of Bush-tax cuts and, possibly the biggest gaffe of the campaign, the infamous “47%” comment.
Romney wasn’t without a few barbs of his own. Countering Obama’s auto industry assault, the Governor asserted bankruptcy was necessary for rebuilding, and, in fact, the administration let it happen. Romney, then aggressively questioned the President on the rising deficit over the last four years.
It was CNN Moderator Candy Crowley who landed the knock-out punch though. During a discussion on the Benghazi attack — in which four Americans, including US Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were killed — Romney criticized the President’s intel and lack of security in Libya. The heated exchange climaxed when Romney claimed Obama took 14 days to condemn the attack as an act of terror. The President rejected and suggested consulting the transcript. This prompted an interjection from Crowley:
“He — he did call it an act of terror.” Crowley stated, “It did as well take — it did as well take two weeks or so for the whole idea there being a riot out there about this tape to come out.”
This live fact-check, which sent a ripple of applause through audience members, caused waves on social media. With most listeners focusing solely on the first half of Crowley’s response, GOP blogs instantly condemned the moderator while Democratic ones lauded her. Regardless of debatable semantics, the damage had been done and Obama narrowly out-performed his opponent.
As the night wrapped up, both candidates took home mixed results. Romney brought momentum from the first debate and continued a hard-lined assault on the economy. But the Governor’s do-it-yourself business rhetoric keeps undecided voters weary on what institutions he will cut. Obama, like his Vice President, was not there to be polite. The President hit Romney where it hurts and reasserted his message of working together to re-build America.
Though Obama may be the victor in this battle, both candidates are far from winning the war.