In the highly anticipated second debate of their candidacy, President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Gov. Mitt Romney came out fighting. Both candidates had an agenda; Obama needed to redeem himself from the poor performance of the last debate while Romney wanted to maintain the edge he attained.
In this town hall style debate, the candidates frequently stood up to address their questioners and the audience directly. Each candidate turned often to his opponent to accuse him of lying or misrepresenting himself. At one point, Obama and Romney circled each other around the stage, hurling comments to discredit the other’s accusations.
The evening opened up with a question from a college student on whether he and his classmates can be reassured they will have a job upon graduation. Romney responded with his five-point plan to help create jobs by stimulating the economy, which has been depressed for four years.
“I know what it takes to get good jobs,” Romney said.
Obama responded that Romney’s plan did not add up.
“Romney’s five-point plan is actually a one-point plan where folks at the top play by different rules,” Obama said.
The debate heated up after the second question on energy and gas prices. Both men came close to invading each other’s personal space while interrupting and contradicting each other’s claims.
Obama accused Romney of siding with oil companies to write policies. Romney came back with Obama’s record of not doing much to bring manufacturing jobs back into the energy industry.
The back and forth exchange escalated until the moderator, Candy Crowley of CNN, insisted they move on.
“I think both candidates forgot they were addressing those who were watching,” said Savannah Guthrie, host of the NBC Today show.
Initial results of a CNN poll of viewers reported 46 percent favored Obama as the winner and 39 percent favored Romney. Analysts are not saying whether the debate will alter the momentum of the election at this point.
Jeremy Teigen, associate professor of political science at Ramapo, said he feels that debates are not game changers.
“One candidate might pick up a point or two, but the fluctuations in the polls are not going to be a 5-10 point swing,” Teigen said. “You win elections by picking up the undecided voter but you won’t change a person’s partisanship overnight.”
The most tense moments came when a question was asked about the recent security lapse in Libya that resulted in the death of four Americans including a U.S. Ambassador. Ignoring Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s earlier admission of responsibility, Obama took ownership for the decision not to increase security at the Libyan Embassy. Romney accused Obama of waiting 14 days to call the Libyan incident “an act of terror.” Obama faced his Republican opponent defensively and fired back.
“The suggestion that anybody on my team, the Secretary of State, our U.N. ambassador, would play politics or mislead, when we’ve lost four of our own, is offensive, governor,” Obama said.
Other issues discussed included the candidates’ positions on illegal immigration, overseas jobs, contraception and equality in the workforce. Romney was reminded that four years ago, the Bush presidency left the country in a deep recession. Obama was attacked for not living up to 2008 campaign promises.
The final debate will take place Monday, Oct. 22, and the agenda will be foreign affairs.