President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney met Tuesday night for the second debate of the season at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., this time a town hall-style format. Both men delivered fiery performances, frequently challenging, interrupting, and talking over one another.
After a lackluster first debate, Obama appeared to be fully engaged and prepared for his second encounter with Romney. The debate was moderated by CNN'S Candy Crowley and featured undecided voters posing questions to the candidates directly on stage. Questions challenged Obama and Romney on immigration, gas prices, and Libya, among other things. Romney focused on Obama's record of the last four years, while Obama focused on what a Romney presidency would look like.
"We just can't afford four more years like the last four years," Romney said, while Obama criticized Romney's pledge to cut taxes while reducing the deficit, saying, "We haven't heard from the governor any specifics beyond Big Bird and eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood, in terms of how he pays for that."
Some of the debate centered around women's issues, a constituency that may well decide the election. In response to a question on how each of the two men would ensure that women have the right to equal pay that men receive, Romney stressed the lengths he went to as governor of Massachusetts to include women in his cabinet. He said, "I brought us whole binders full of women." He also said, "Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives."
Obama worked to paint Romney as a rich executive, slamming him for his investment in Chinese companies, defense of cuts for high-income taxpayers, and Romney's own fortune. He also mentioned Romney's "47 percent" comments, something he failed to do in the first debate two weeks ago.
"When he said behind closed doors that 47 percent of the country considers themselves victims who refuse personal responsibility—think about who he was talking about," Obama said.
The two men circled one another on the stage as they sparred, including during an intense exchange over the diplomatic murders in Libya, with Romney arguing the president took far too long to call the act one of terrorism, and failing to take responsibility. Crowley stepped into the debate to confirm that Obama had indeed acknowledged it as an act of terror soon after the tragedy, cutting off protests from Romney.
The president said he was offended by the suggestion that his administration would intentionally withhold the truth about what happened in Libya or use the tragedy for political purposes.
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