HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney aggressively challenged each other Tuesday night in their second debate, with more than 90 minutes of sharp attacks, interrupted answers and testy exchanges over the economy, taxes, immigration and energy.
The president’s partisans were likely pleased with his tough-minded rebound from his tepid and much-maligned performance in the first debate earlier this month. Romney backers will be pleased with his continued willingness to confront his rival.
Trying hard to erase the memory of his initial debate performance, Obama came on strong Tuesday, forcefully challenging Romney’s stands.
Romney countered just as vigorously by attempting to reinforce the confident, determined image he showed during their first matchup. The Republican challenger also aimed to show that his conservatism has a compassionate hue and to dispel the notion that he’s a wealthy, out-of-touch patrician.
Their second and perhaps pivotal debate had Obama and Romney fighting constantly, sometimes interrupting, and sometimes talking and correcting each other at the same time.
Obama began the debate by quickly attacking Romney on his economic plan, his solution to high gasoline prices and his failure to support the auto industry bailout. Romney recommended bankruptcy for the automakers in 2008.
Don’t believe Romney has a five-point plan to help the economy, Obama said. He has a one-point plan, he said – “you can invest in a company, bankrupt it, lay off the workers and still make money . . . that’s exactly the philosophy we’ve seen in place for the last decade.”
Romney fired right back, and would time and time again.
"It’s not going to be like the last four years,” he said. “The middle class has been crushed over the last four years, and jobs have been too scarce. I know what it takes to bring them back, and I’m going to do that."
The candidates debated in a town hall format that allowed them to walk around the stage, address the voters directly and stand almost next to each other as they parried back and forth. Questions came from undecided voters from the New York City area selected by the Gallup Organization. CNN’s Candy Crowley, the first woman in 20 years to moderate a presidential debate, regularly followed up the participants’ questions and candidates’ answers with questions of her own, pressing for more detail.
The stakes for this second meeting were high. Romney is credited with winning the first faceoff Oct. 3, and another stumble by Obama could have doused any momentum his campaign spent months to build.
But the president was much feistier from the outset Tuesday night in a debate that seemed to include every incendiary issue of the domestic agenda.
Foreign policy only came up once, but it involved a question that’s dogged the Obama administration for more than a month.
The president was asked why his administration did not provide more security in Libya prior to a terrorist attack that led to the death of four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador, at the Benghazi consulate.
Last week, a State Department official told Congress that she had received requests for more security in Benghazi but that she had rejected them because the department wanted to train Libyans to handle the duties.