AS EXPECTED OBAMA TURNS IN A BETTER PERFORMANCE IN 2ND DEBATE
By GEOFF HOLTZMAN
Talk Radio News Service
HEMSTEAD, NY - Two weeks ago in Denver, it was Mitt Romney who stole the show, putting President Obama on alert that he needed to take his opponent seriously in the lead up to the election.
Needing a convincing win in his second match-up against Romney, Obama stepped up his game, delivering a sharper, more focused performance that critics described as a big improvement over his did in Round One.
It wasn’t a blowout, but thanks to an aggressive style and a little help from Romney, himself, Obama likely emerged victorious tonight.
Romney opened the debate solidly, promising the first questioner of the night — a 20-year-old college student worried about finding a job after graduation — employment in a Romney economy. From there, however, Obama gradually took over, asserting himself as the candidate better positioned to help prevent middle class Americans from sinking financially in the next four years.
Obama’s argument was simple, raise tax rates on those making $250,000 or more per year, while keeping current rates in place for everyone earning less. Invest more in domestic manufacturing and education and crack down on China as a currency manipulator. The merits of that plan aside, his sales pitch seemed to be clearer and more confident than his first attempt on October 3. Romney, meanwhile, touted his plan to cut taxes rates across the board, but was forced repeatedly by Obama to defend criticism that his plan would not balance, thereby burdening middle class voters with picking up the tab needed to cover the cost of his plan.
On energy, the two shared an intense back and forth, with Romney getting in Obama’s face (literally) over how his administration has treated oil and gas producers during his first term. Obama defended his record on oil and gas, and for a moment it seemed as though Romney had successfully moved Obama to the middle. But Obama came back swinging, knocking Romney for opposing clean energy subsidies, and even hitting him for once opposing coal.
At that point, the president appeared to have momentum as the discussion turned to taxes.
After brief exchanges on immigration and trade policy, Obama was asked by Kerry Ladka, an employee at a telecom supply business, to clarify his administration’s response to the attack in Benghazi, Libya last month that killed four Americans, including former Ambassador to the country Chris Stevens.
“As soon as we found out that the Benghazi consulate was being overrun, I was on the phone with my national security team and I gave them three instructions,” Obama said.
“Number one, beef up security and procedures, not just in Libya, but at every embassy and consulate in the region.
“Number two, investigate exactly what happened, regardless of where the facts lead us, to make sure folks are held accountable and it doesn’t happen again.”
“And number three, we are going to find out who did this and we’re going to hunt them down, because one of the things that I’ve said throughout my presidency is when folks mess with Americans, we go after them.”
The president then accused Romney of politicizing the attack.
Romney shot back that Obama had mislead voters by taking weeks to define the attack as a terrorist attack. Moderator Candy Crowley then asked Obama about Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s remark yesterday in which she took full responsibility for what happened. As expected, Obama seized responsibility from Clinton, praising her efforts, but stating that “I’m the president and I’m always responsible, and that’s why nobody’s more interested in finding out exactly what happened than I do.”
That prompted Romney to interject that Obama had failed to label the Benghazi attack as an act of terror.
According to a transcript of Obama’s Rose Garden statement on September 12, he did, in fact, refer to what happened as “acts of terror.” But Romney continued, saying that it “took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.”
Perhaps wrongly, Crowley, herself, interrupted Romney to refute his claim.
“He did in fact, sir…call it an act of terror.”
Crowley added that Romney was partially right to suggest that it took the administration two weeks to declare with certainty that the attacks were solely fueled by terrorists, and not by an anti-Islamic video, which the administration initially credited as having driven the attack.
That exchange, though brief, may have tilted the debate in Obama’s favor due to the ineloquence with which Romney delivered his criticism. Benghazi was expected by most to be an area where Romney could attack Obama multiple ways tonight, but it ended up becoming one of his weakest moments in either of the two debates thus far.
Following the contest, Romney surrogates backed their candidate’s response to Libya, with Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell saying that “the moderator and the president were flat wrong on that.”
The third and final debate between the candidates takes place on Monday in Boca Raton, Florida.
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