President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney faced off in a second debate Oct. 16. The town-hall style debate at Hofstra University near New York City was a sharp contrast to the first debate, in which Obama was criticized for a lackluster performance.
While the president avoided addressing Romney directly during the first debate, instead directing most of his comments towards the moderator and audience, both candidates were far more confrontational in the second debate.
“The second presidential debate performance by both candidates exceeded expectations, especially President Obama,” Eastern Michigan University Student Body President Matthew Norfleet said.
“His inviting non-verbals paired with an assertive tone highlighted a sharp contrast to President Obama of two weeks ago and the Mitt Romney of today.”
Obama was on the offensive within the first moments of the debate, and continued throughout the evening. He confronted Romney on his opposition to the auto industry bailout, and accused him of letting oil companies write energy policies.
EMU junior Matt Swinehart said he felt the beginning of the debate was a bit hostile due to tensions from the last debate between the candidates.
“Once questions on social issues were asked the candidates calmed down more. Though I did think it was a little immature of the candidates, because they both seemed to always want to try and get the last word in,” Swinehart said.
Obama also said Romney had “gone to a more extreme place when it comes to social policy” than former Republican president George W. Bush.
The president also frequently criticized Romney for making false statements. “What you’re saying is just not true,” was a phrase often repeated by Obama throughout the debate.
With both candidates hoping to draw more female supporters, women’s issues were a key component of the second debate.
Romney touted his efforts to increase the number of women in his cabinet as governor of Massachusetts. In a comment that took the Internet by storm, Romney said, “I went to a number of women’s groups and said ‘Can you help us folks?’ and they brought us whole binders full of women.”
The statement, referring to resumes, spurred a flutter of activity on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, with #bindersfullofwomen and #binders trending on twitter within moments.
Obama also made statements aimed at the women in the audience. He reminded viewers the first piece of legislation he passed as president created more equal pay for women, and called out Romney for the Republican Party’s proposed elimination of funding for Planned Parenthood.
“These are not just women’s issues,” Obama said. “These are family issues. These are economic issues.”
Romney and Obama also argued over the administration’s handling of the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya in September. The attack resulted in the death of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
Romney criticized Obama for politicizing the situation.
“On the day following the assassination of the United States ambassador, the first time that’s happened since 1979, when—when we have four Americans killed there, when apparently we didn’t know what happened, that the president, the day after that happened, flies to Las Vegas for a political fundraiser,” Romney said.
Obama, visibly upset at Romney’s remarks, said he pledged the day after the attack he would find out what happened and met with the families of those who had been killed.
“And the suggestion that anybody in my team, whether the secretary of state, our U.N. ambassador, anybody on my team would play politics or mislead when we’ve lost four of our own, governor, is offensive. That’s not what we do. That’s not what I do as president, that’s not what I do as commander in chief,” Obama said.
Throughout the debate, the candidates circled each other, aggressively confronting each other and delivering several zingers.
When Romney asked the president if he had looked at his pension lately, Obama made a quip about Romney’s wealth.
“I don’t look at my pension. It’s not as big as yours so it doesn’t take as long,” he said.
Romney also attacked Obama’s handling of the economy.
“The middle class has been crushed over the last four years, and jobs have been too scarce,” Romney said.
Obama reminded viewers of a blunder from the first debate, when he claimed Romney has hidden the specifics of his tax plan.
“We haven’t heard from the governor any specifics beyond Big Bird and eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood,” he said.
Obama also used the second debate to bring up Romney’s remarks that 47 percent of Americans are dependent on the government.
At the end of the debate the candidates were asked about mistaken perceptions of their campaigns, Romney told the audience he cares about 100 percent of the American people despite the Obama campaign’s efforts to convince them otherwise.
In his closing remarks, Obama countered by mentioning Romney’s statement made “behind closed doors, that 47 percent of the country consider themselves victims who refuse personal responsibility. Think about who he was talking about.”
Obama then listed key groups, including students, veterans, soldiers and the elderly receiving Social Security.
“I want to fight for them,” Obama said. “If they succeed, I believe the country succeeds.”
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