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Romney, Obama come out swinging in fiery second debate

President Barack ObamRepublican presidential nominee Mitt Romney exchange views during second presidential debate HofstrUniversity Tuesday Oct. 16 2012 Hempstead N.Y.

President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney exchange views during the second presidential debate at Hofstra University, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012, in Hempstead, N.Y. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

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Updated: November 18, 2012 6:42AM



A feistier President Barack Obama showed up for the second of three presidential debates Tuesday night, sparring with a just-as-fired-up Mitt Romney as each tried to steal momentum in the race as the Nov. 6 election nears.

The night was highlighted by a series of intense and testy exchanges, when the candidates — who are in a dead heat in the polls — got up close and personal, invaded one another’s space, talked over each other and generally refused to cede any ground. At times in the 90-minute, Town Hall style debate, Romney inched toward Obama and asked the president questions directly.

“Mr. President have you looked at your pension?” Romney repeated at the president as he sought to talk about how money is invested overseas. “Have you looked at your pension?”

“I don’t look at my pension,” Obama retorted. “It’s not as big as yours,” he said to laughter.

One of the most dramatic exchanges came as the two answered questions regarding the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Obama was asked to react to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s statement that she took responsibility for the attack that killed the first American ambassador since the 1970s.

“She works for me. I’m the president, and I’m always responsible,” Obama said.

Obama also said of Romney’s criticism right after the Benghazi attack:

“You don’t turn national security into a political issue, certainly not right when it’s happening.”

Romney criticized the president and his administration for characterizing it as a protest gone awry — instead of as a terror attack — until well after the fact.

“I think you have to ask yourselves why we didn’t know. On the day following the assassination of the United States ambassador … the president the day after that happens flies to Las Vegas for a political fund-raiser.”

Obama made it clear that he took exception to the comment.

“The day after the attack, I stood in the Rose Garden [and said]… that this was an act of terror,” Obama said.

Obama then looked right at Romney.

“The suggestion that anyone on my team, would play politics or mislead when we lost four of our own, is offensive, governor. That’s not what we do.”

When Romney tried to pin Obama down on whether the president really used those words in the Rose Garden, the two squabbled to a point that moderator Candy Crowley actually intervened. Crowley told Romney that Obama did in fact use the words “act of terror.” She also though, agreed with Romney that Obama’s administration didn’t classify the attack for what it was until well after the fact.

In another key moment, a young man who said Obama inspired confidence in 2008 asked whether he should still feel optimistic in 2012.

“I think you know better,” Romney told the disillusioned voter. “I think you know these last four years haven’t been so good. “

Throughout the night, Obama worked to rehabilitate the image he left after the first debate, when he was viewed as metaphorically not showing up.

Romney subsequently won a bump in poll numbers after that first match-up.

As he did in the last debate, Romney highlighted unemployment, those on food stamps and slow economic growth.

Romney highlighted his resume as he said he was the best person to take on the nation’s staggering deficit.

“I was someone who ran a business for 25 years and balanced the budget. I ran the Olympics and balanced the budget,” Romney said. “I know how to balance budgets, I’ve done it all my life.”

Obama though worked to highlight that he did achieve what he said he would do: end two wars, reform health care and go after terror threats.

“And Osama bin Laden is dead,” the president said.

One of Romney’s weaker moments came when he was asked about pay equity for women.

Romney talked about how he recruited women to join the ranks of the governor’s office in Massachusetts, touting that his office was ranked the most female-friendly at one point. But he then said: “sometimes you have to be more flexible,” when it came to hiring women. He said working moms would tell him: “I can’t be here until 7 or 8 at night.” That lit up the Twittersphere with women asking if Romney were addressing women in the 1950s.

“This is not just a women’s issue, it’s a family issue, it’s a middle class issue,” was Obama’s answer.

On jobs going to China — particularly the manufacturing of the wildly popular iPhones — the two took different approaches. Romney talked about how: “China has been cheating over the years,” and that the country was stealing trade secrets from the U.S. Romney said it wouldn’t change until there was a level playing field.

Obama took a different approach, seeming to say some of those low-skill, low-wage jobs are best not to return.

“There are some jobs that are not going to come back here,” Obama said. “I want high wage, high skill jobs.”

And he lit into Romney for investing in firms that outsourced jobs.

“Governor, you’re the last person who’s going to get tough on China,” Obama said.



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