President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Gov. Mitt Romney faced off in another crucial debate in what has been an extremely tight presidential race. Pressure has been mounting on Obama to deliver a strong performance after he faced criticism for a relatively weak showing in the first debate.
Obama came out much more aggressively in the second debate, defending his administration’s record as one that essentially saved the U.S. economy from the great economic collapse of 2008, while attacking Romney’s record and the comments he made during his campaign.
The debate, held at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., used a town-hall format in which audience members, who were undecided voters, and a moderator asked questions of the two candidates on domestic and foreign policy.
“Governor Romney doesn’t have a five-point plan; he has a one-point plan,” Obama said, referring to the Republican challenger’s economic plan to revive the American economy and claiming that Romney’s policies will mainly benefit the rich. “His prescription wasn’t going to work,” he said, adding, “That’s what’s been squeezing middle-class families.”
Prior to that, Romney said that his plan would create 12 million jobs during his first term in office. “You took Detroit bankrupt,” he told Obama, referring to the president’s policies in the automotive industry. Obama argued, “We would have lost a million jobs if there was no auto bailout.”
The exchange between the two led up to tit-for-tat attacks on America’s strategy for producing oil, natural gas, coal, and other forms of energy on federal lands.
Romney posed an accusatory question to Obama about his administration cutting production on federal lands, leading the two candidates to cross talk and attack each other’s record. It’s “just not true,” Obama said, while Romney interjected, “It’s absolutely true.”
Throughout the first debate, Obama was criticized by pundits and the media for looking down the entire time, but in the second go-around, he kept eye contact and kept his head up. He also took a shot at Romney for not releasing his personal income taxes, which the media and Obama’s campaign has dogged throughout the election.
Romney reiterated that Obama’s administration “buried” the middle class, saying that he himself would come up with tax cuts and would also cut the federal deficit. He added that he would not raise taxes for higher-income households because lower rates will allow them to have more capital and will spur job creation.
Obama reiterated a claim he made during the first debate, which was that Romney’s plan would cost $5 trillion, and he said that he would spend $2 billion more on defense. He quipped, “We haven’t heard from the governor any specifics besides Big Bird and not funding Planned Parenthood about how he pays for that.”
One voter asked a question to Romney if his policies would be similar to former President George W. Bush. Romney made it clear that many of his policies would be different than Bush’s administration, which many blame for helping foster the current economic recession.
Romney said that Obama’s administration accumulated $4 trillion in deficits. Obama’s economic policy “puts us on the road to Greece,” he said. “If you re-elect Obama, you will have a repeat of the last four years,” he said.
“My priority is jobs—I know how to make that happen,” Romney said, adding that he would “get tough on China.” Romney has said that he would label China a currency manipulator.
Obama counterattacked with a powerful jab regarding China, saying that Romney’s former company, Bain Capital, helped build a surveillance system for the Chinese regime and invested heavily in Chinese companies. “Governor, you’re the last person who would get tough on China,” Obama said.
The two candidates will face off once more in the next debate, which will focus mainly on foreign policy, on Oct. 22 at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla.
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