In Tuesday night’s feisty, combative, and high-stakes second presidential debate, President Obama appeared significantly more aggressive than he was during the first face-off, getting the better part of the key exchanges with Republican opponent Mitt Romney.
The fired-up commander-in-chief attacked Romney for lacking specifics as the two sparred on immigration, taxes, abortion and violence in Libya.
It was a sharp contrast from Obama’s first debate performance, when critics blasted the president for being listless and unappealingly professorial.
A key flashpoint in the debate came when CNN moderator Candy Crowley fact-checked Romney on Libya. Romney insisted that President Obama failed for two weeks to call the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi an “act of terror.”
Obama insisted that he called it an “act of terror” the very next day, telling Romney to check the transcript. When the governor repeated his charge, Crowley jumped in, saying Obama “did in fact” call the siege an act of terror.
Another critical moment came at the very end of the debate when Obama cited video of Romney dismissing 47 percent of the country as government moochers—something the president neglected to bring up during the first debate.
“Keep in mind who he was talking about,” said Obama. ”Folks on Social Security who have worked all their lives, veterans who sacrifice for this country, students who are out there trying to hopefully advance their own dreams, but also this country’s dreams, soldiers who are overseas, fighting for us right now, people who are working hard every day, paying payroll tax, gas taxes, but don’t make enough income. I want to fight for them. That’s what I’ve been doing for the last four years. ”
Romney, speaking before Obama, seemed to preemptively refer to the video, saying “I care about 100 percent of the American people.” But he had no chance for a rebuttal after Obama spoke.
The showdown at Hofstra University in New York was tense from the start as the two traded blows over Romney’s five-point plan to generate growth.
Obama quipped that Romney “doesn’t have a five-point plan. He has a one-point plan. That plan is to make sure that folks at the top play by a different set of rules.” What a “sketchy deal,” the president said.
“If somebody came to you, governor,” Obama told Romney, “with a plan that said, ‘Here, I want to spend seven or eight trillion dollars, and we’re going to pay for it, but we can’t tell you until maybe after the election how we’re going to do it,’ you wouldn’t have taken such a sketchy deal, and neither should you, the American people.”
For his part, Romney continually charged that Obama is just peddling more of the same, pointing to the president’s failure to reform the immigration system during his first term in office.
Obama hit back, pointing out that Romney is against the DREAM Act, a failed bill that would have provided a path to legal citizenship for many undocumented immigrants. He said the Republicans in Congress had been reluctant to support comprehensive reform and wouldn’t in the future if Romney had his way.
The president also brought up abortion and women’s rights, subjects that weren’t covered in the first debate. Obama ripped Romney as being “comfortable having politicians in Washington decide the healthcare choices that women are making.” Romney immediately denied the accusation.
Obama also hit Romney for not providing details on his budget, saying “we haven’t heard from the governor any specifics beyond Big Bird and eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood.”
msnbc’s Rachel Maddow called Obama’s performance a “U-Turn” from the first debate, adding that it was probably the best of the president’s career.